All posts by tonyf1118@yahoo.com

Wait ‘Til Next Year

Good News!  The Cubs and Bulls have set me free and now I can spend even more time creating more and consuming less.

I begin writing this on Thursday night, October 19th, 2017 as the Dodgers take a 7-zip lead against the Cubs in game 5 of the NLCS.  Having unbelievably watched the Cubs win it all last year, I cannot say that I am happy to see them get crushed in this must-win game, but I will certainly get over it soon.  As a lifelong fan, I have seen them either suck the entire season, blow a lead right at the end of the season, or lose in the playoffs every year since I started following them in 1980 with the exception of last fall.

So kudos to them for making it into the playoffs this year, beating the Nationals in an exciting divisional series without hitting the ball very much, and making it this far.  With Theo and Joe Madden running things, they’ll make it back to the playoffs in ’18.  Seeing as how I have big plans for myself, as do you, this coming year, I see no reason why the Cubs should not excel, as well.

In the case of the Bulls…well…

Let’s just say that I do not plan on wasting precious time watching this poorly run team that fights among themselves more than they battle their opponents.  Worthless bum Bobby Portis just knocked out only slightly less worthless bum Niko Mirotic a few days ago by breaking his face with a sucker punch in a skirmish during practice.

Not being very adept at either drafting or trading for players, GarPax continued their joint ineptitude by suspending the worthless piece of crap Portis for only eight games, while Nico is out indefinitely.

By the way, on Chuck Swirsky’s Twitter page when he asked for prognostications for their record this year, for some reason I optimistically predicted twenty-nine wins, which would put them at fifty-three losses, a last-place or near last-place finish.  And that was before this skirmish, which cost one of their only decent players a few weeks of missed games, not to mention that he won’t exactly be working well with Crazy Eyes.

As a fan of the Bulls since about 1980, when I began following the Cubs and in the pre-MJ years, this franchise is again sinking into the abyss.  They already faced three major issues that were going to keep them in the NBA cellar for a few years before this skirmish: One, their players really, truly suck.  Especially the ones that GarPax drafted or traded for.  The garbage that they got in return for Butler and Taj is laughable and should justify getting both of them fired.

Two, they have one of the worst, if not the worst, coaches in the NBA.  Third and most importantly, neither Gar Forman or John Paxson seem to be able to recognize NBA talent any more.  More than half of their draft picks are not really NBA material, or at least winning NBA material.  I feel bad for Nico and he seems like a great guy, but did they seriously expect that he would become a winning player in the league?  They must not be watching the same league that we are.

How this pertains to Yours Truly is that I do not intend to watch many Bulls games this season.  I may not watch any unless they miraculously start putting things together and can make a playoff run, but I do not think that will happen.  Through their horrible draft picks and trades, GarPax has freed up many nights for me to create new content rather than consuming a lousy product in the perpetual hope of landing high draft picks.

Back when I first began this blog, I mentioned Chicago sports as one of the topics that I would write about.  Since that time, this has morphed into a sharing what I have learned reading/financial information/self-improvement/coping with anxiety blog.  I guess that what it has become more closely reflects my true personality and things that interest me.

Last week, as the Cubs were playing in the playoffs and the Bears were putting in new QB Mitch Trubisky, my opinion about the Bears was basically that they suck big-time and that Trubisky seems like another losing QB in a long string of them.

After beating the Ravens last week, the Bears seemed to actually have some faint glimmer of hope for the future.

I foresee a lot of 7-9, 8-8 and maybe even a few 9-7 seasons in the future with Trubisky.  Maybe even an “if they win this game, they may get in the playoffs if the Packers or Vikings lose” kind of game.  They usually do not win those games, but they are fun to watch.

As for the Cubs…

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Wait ‘til next year!

 

 

 

 

A Need to Exceed

I’ve got a need.  A need to exceed.

I need to exceed this coming year.

What do I need to exceed?  Great question, but it would probably be easier for me to name things that I do not need to exceed.

Things that come to mind: I need to exceed the number of times that I am romantic and initiate intimacy with my wife, for one.  Although I have always been a supportive and loving parent since our son was born in July of 1998, I want to exceed the support and guidance that I have been providing for the past few years, as I have grown exceedingly tired, anxious and stressed out about money and have not always given my children the level of support that I would like to.

Speaking of money, I must exceed the income that I have earned every year to date in my nearly quarter century of being a mostly productive member of the workforce.  I want to exceed the number of times that I have visited and helped my widowed mother this year, which should be easy, considering that the number is zero.

I need to exceed how many eBooks I have floating out there in cyberspace, which has stood at one for over ten years.  I very much want to exceed the number of vacation days that I take, as well as traveling to more interesting locales than Illinois and Wisconsin.  I want to exceed the number of accomplishments at work, even though I have had a pretty good year business-wise despite my many critics.

I want to exceed the grit and creativity that I possess today as I write this, while becoming better organized and reducing my clutter.

I could go on, but you get the drift.  I need to exceed my current way of doing most things.  It would be better and more compelling reading for you if a regular middle aged Middle Class Guy living in the Midwest like me could do it.  If I can do it, then you certainly can too.

I do not harbor illusions of completely achieving my unlived dream life by the end of next year, or even by the year after that.  My wished-for life would be one of a happier, more confident, better capitalized, more easy-going family man who takes ample vacation time and spends a higher amount of quality time with my family.

Sometimes my fantasy life overtakes my real one, typically over weekends when the stress of surviving and thriving a workweek in the pressure cooker where I work fades a bit.  I do spend a lot of time on home-related and family-related things over most weekends, and as I read, think and write about self-improvement, I fancy myself a well-read self-publisher of such books.

While my fantasy life offers near-complete satisfaction, I am working toward turning these daydreams into action items.  I continue working toward merging this unlived fantasy life with the real thing but, for now, it is as if I lead a double life: the one that I wish for and the one that I drag myself through day after day.

Exceed My Writing Power

Mostly I receive messages from spammers through this blog, but I have had a few that were real.  They tell me not to be so boring.

Looking at a few posts, I realize that they would mostly come across as boring for readers less introspective than I am and for those who do not have such a high responsibility for others, suffer from anxiety or want to achieve something greater than what they currently are.

I realize that there is a vast difference between me writing something that you can relate to versus something that you find compelling.  There is a difference between writing something well and intelligible, versus provoking an actual change in your thinking and behavior.  There is a difference between your empathizing with my challenges versus writing something captivating to you.

The linguistics and writing skills that have been drilled into me since I learned to speak are on full display on post after post and eBooks-to-be, but I would rather that you read something that helps you cope and overcome your own issues, whether it be lethargy, anxiety or consuming too much while creating little to nothing.

I need to exceed my own levels of success, so you can too.  If I can change my way of thinking, improve myself and become wealthier healthier and haopier, surely you can too.

Need to Exceed My Badassery

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There is a certain level of idealism and heroism associated with writing one’s own rules.  People love a badass.  You would rather read about how I told my new boss to go fuck himself, then I went on a trip to southeast Asia, where I was going to make a million bucks per year by documenting my travels, blogging and self-publishing top-selling eBooks and eventually get published in print.

Fewer folks  find the anxiety and stresses of a Middle Class Guy with a wife, two kids, dog, master’s degree and twenty-four years of government work experience compelling.  Besides being involved in one of the more interesting aspects of local government work, economic development, I would not find it interesting either.

People like to read about guys like Steve Jobs, Sergey Brin, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson and Steve Balmer.  People who flaunt the rules, turn them on their heads, and make their own.  Not sheeple who dutifully worked their way through various colleges and graduate schools or who toiled for decades in old-fashioned rule-heavy bureaucracies that were too cumbersome and difficult to ever change.  These guys change the way that they do things, and thus the way we do, as a way of life.

There is a certain level of triumphalism, of beating the system and sticking it to “The Man.”  The old adage that the end justifies the means proves correct and signifies a new version of heroism.  Heroes are not people like me who have played by rules set by others for forty-seven years.  Nosireebob.  Rules are meant to be challenged and changed, possibly even ignored, if they suck.

The current POTUS only wants winners, and winners do not emerge from those who avoid risks at all costs and follow the rules the best.  Not that I plan on breaking every rule.  For instance, I still intend to keep my true identity unaffiliated with this for the time being.  As much as I want to exceed my bad-assery, share my wealth of knowledge and tell it like it is, I still recognize the importance of maintaining my solid reputation with my employer and those whom I conduct business with.

But that does not mean that there is anything stopping me from publishing a dozen successful eBooks on a wide range of topics under different made up pseudonyms that interest me and help others.  Perhaps my blog or eBook titles should shift to “Middle Class Badass.”  People like that word.

Not only do I have a need to exceed.  I have a need to exceed my badassery.  I would bet that if my next blog handle is Middle Class Badass, the readership would increase dramatically.

I have some more humble titles in mind for my forthcoming books, so for now, put that one on the back burner.

Attacking Anxiety

I have made some further strides in attacking my anxieties over the past few weeks.

Besides being a generally anxious person who was a born worrier, my anxiety level was turned up to about a seven this past July when I was transferred from one department to another and reassigned to a boss fourteen years my junior.  I could list many complaints about this new situation, but suffice it to say that it greatly increased my anxiety.

Add to that a family-related situation going on at the same time, and my stress and anxiety level went up to its highest level ever.

I have previously written a few posts about my high level of anxiety and some ways that I am coping with it, so consider this a continuation of those, plus several more thoughts on ways to cope and reduce your own anxiety.

Instead of suffering from anxiety attacks, I am attacking my anxiety.

Too responsible?

Some of my anxiety may stem from feeling over responsible for my family’s well-being.  True, I am the primary breadwinner and tend to be somewhat more decisive than my wife, so many times I make big calls on what will be allowed, what will be purchased by us or what our children should purchase for themselves, or some combination thereof.

I worry all the time about their well-being and if they are being treated fairly by classmates, coaches, teachers, friends, friends’ parents, school administrators, band directors and the like.

I feel completely responsible for my family’s finances, and with good reason.  My wife was completely a stay-at-home mother for over ten years after our son was born, and then segued back into the workforce at one hour per day, only during school days, supervising the lunch hour at our children’s former school.

According to Jennifer Shannon in her book, Don’t Feed the Monkey Mind, us over-responsible types exhibit problems including working harder than others, taking on other people’s problems, poor self-care, burnout, constant worry and rumination about others, blaming ourselves for things that are not our fault, difficulty setting limits and difficulty asserting ourselves.

I have certainly been guilty of all of the above at some point or another this year.  Not saying that I will hit the “off” button and no longer worry about my family’s problems, worrying about others or blaming myself for things beyond my control, but I am certainly already striving to be less of an anxious worry wart and recognize that many things are beyond my control.

My mother has often told me that I have been a worrier and very responsible to the point of being like a third parent for my younger brother and sister.  It’s interesting that both of them have embraced the mindset of the world as a place of abundance filled with friends and unlimited opportunities, while I have worked for years with my nose to the grindstone in what has become a largely unfulfilling job and have basically lost touch with all of my friends, which I once had many of.

I am certainly trying to become less of a worrier, but that is something much easier said than done.  Worrying less is an extremely vague and difficult goal to measure, but it is going to become one of my numerous New Year’s resolutions in 2018.

Attacking My Anxiety

It is easier said than done to learn to accept making mistakes, failing at some endeavors, realizing that we cannot please all the people all the time and admitting our imperfections.

Actually, I have come to accept the preceding four things over the past year-and-a-half while reading, thinking and writing about self-improvement, and now I am trying to convey the same to my new, young and aggressive boss who, like the President, wants only winners and no losers ever.

The fact of the matter is, in our professional and personal lives, there are going to be many losing propositions, failures, mistakes and things beyond our control.

It may be easy to change your thinking in this regard while reading this or another self-help book, article or blog post, or while meeting with a therapist or chatting with a trusted friend or confidant.  It is quite another thing to actually embrace this mindset.

With what Ms. Shannon describes as an expansive mindset, we can overcome our narrow way of thinking that has been pounded into us since we were babies and then reinforced daily over the decades by parents, other relatives, teachers, coaches, professors, bosses, colleagues, customers and on TV, the radio and all forms of mass media.

The sooner that we can realize that it is okay not to be certain about something or imperfect or unable to control a situation, the better off we will be for it.

All of the other elements that I am embracing this year are helping me attack and ultimately overcome my anxiety, including, but not limited to, becoming grittier, creating more and consuming less, trying to worry less, and counter-punching my anxiety in the fucking face.

My father embraced these philosophies without even once reading one sentence in the self-help or financial genres.  He knew who he was and never tried to be anything more than that to anyone, ever.  If he did not know something, he would tell you that or an entire audience, and he always stuck to his guns no matter what.

My father would be the guy who would stand up in an audience of a thousand to speak his mind, even if the other 999 were against him.  I am not sure that that type of mindset can be taught through reading or writing about resiliency or attacking your anxiety, but it is a great mindset for me to keep in my own mind as I strive to better myself.

I have been less reluctant to share my faults and weaknesses with my family of late, as well as in my writings.  When you have not been good at something for years or possibly decades, you may as well admit it by the time you are closer to fifty years of age than forty.

As I continue to attack my anxieties head-on day by day, week by week, month by month and throughout this coming year, I anticipate becoming more comfortable with my own skin and learning how to deal with some measure of rejection while increasing my resilience.

One more thing – this is not just about Yours Truly Middle Class Guy.  I suspect that you are reading this because you, too, want to break out of your narrow box a little bit more this year and beyond.  If you just keep waking up and dragging yourself through the same routine day after day without stopping to think about what and how you could do things better, then what’s the point?

If you are already a highly successful person financially and in your life, and you wake up every day loving what it is that you do and ready to tackle all things that come your way, then kudos to you.  You have already achieved what most of us can only wish for or, like me, have to work diligently and persistently for years to achieve.

If you have achieved this, then I hope to read your book on how you did so someday.

Prepare for Some Setbacks

While I would prefer to write about my greater level of success and satisfaction at work and in my home life next year, it would not be realistic to go through a year or more without setbacks.

Many of us Middle Class Guys cannot prevent the loss of our jobs, our homes, possessions or a loved one.  As we can see by the wildfires in northern California and the recent hurricanes, natural disasters can wipe out our years of work in a matter of days or perhaps hours.  The ever-present risk of another financial collapse could wipe out nearly two decades of my savings, including my children’s college accounts.  Kim Jong Un might put an end to all of this for all of us Americans if he had his way.

We cannot live our lives without some measure of risk, and we all face hardships at one time or another.  There will never be a shortage of things for us to feel anxiety and stress about.

But it is my goal to become more resilient when dealing with life’s inevitable ups and downs.  I have already improved at this lately.  After experiencing a very high level of anxiety three months ago due to an upheaval at my place of work at the same time that I was dealing with a family crisis, I could not sleep well, concentrate or take much joy in life at all.  Top that off with constantly spending more than we make, and we had several ingredients for a recipe of middle class disaster.

My own ability and my family’s to tolerate and overcome these adversities in our lives has made us more resilient as a result.  By no means have the four of us achieved all of our dreams, but we are all learning that every threat, perceived or genuine, can be handled.

As my own path has had hurdles thrown in at unexpected times, I have learned how to persevere and have increased my mental strength, if not my physical strength.

Writing this in a local park near my place of work on a beautiful day in October made me feel a little bit better about myself, and I hope that reading it helps you a bit, too.

Peace Out!

 

 

 

A Quarter Century Ago

I begin writing this on Friday the Thirteenth of October 2017, my eleventh vacation day of this year in a park a few blocks away from my son’s college. He does not drive and, even if he did, neither he nor we could afford an additional car for him.  Thus, because he comes home most weekends, either my wife or I pick him up most Fridays and return him to the pretty little campus on Sundays.

It’s not so bad considering that his college is only about a half hour to forty minute drive from our home.  The exception to that is when I pick him up after work on Fridays, in which case it takes me nearly an hour to get there from my office and nearly another hour in suburban rush hour gridlock to get him home.

Today that is not the case, as I am outside on a picture-perfect day with an hour or so to go before his school week concludes around 3:00.

Enough about where and when I am writing this.  The subject matter is about the quarter century that has passed since I received my undergraduate degree from Good Old UW-Madison.

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I was not really thinking about such things until I received an invitation to attend the twenty-five year reunion of the class of 1992 next weekend, which is homecoming at that fairly esteemed institution of higher learning.

In the spring of 1992, there was no way that I could have guessed the profession that I would spend decades in or the fact that I was going to feel far more pressure and anxiety in fall of 2017 than in 1992.  I certainly could not have fathomed that a seven-year-old in a far-away suburb from the City who was not nearly the brightest bulb in the package would be my boss twenty-five years later.  Not when I had the general plans to become independently wealthy by now, despite the fact that I certainly did not have an inkling of how I would accomplish that.

The one thing that I may have correctly anticipated would be being married to my wonderful wife of twenty-one years and that we would have two fantastic children.  Since we met in the spring of 1990 and had been growing closer month by month for over two-and-a-half years by October of 1992, that would not have surprised me one bit.  I was not thinking about marriage then, but she was.  My lovely wife claimed that she told her mother that she met the man she was going to marry a day or two after we met.  I had to buy into the fact of getting married to my first serious girlfriend that lasted more than a few dates and hook-ups, although we did not call it hooking up back then.

I probably would have cursed exclaimed “What the Fuck?!” had someone told me that I would be an economic development professional for two to three decades.  I even had to admit to being an economic developer to a bank teller today, but more on that later.  Not that there is anything shameful about being an economic developer; quite the opposite.  Some people consider it a prestigious occupation, although I can assure you that it is far from that.

Why would I have reacted that way?

Three reasons come to mind.  First off, I had never really heard the term “economic development” until I was about thirty years old and put in an application for a planning position in the Crook County Department of Planning and Development.  Having already served as a probation officer for nearly eight years, I was simply submitting applications for anything and everything after obtaining my master’s degree.

Upon being hired and then informed that my title was “Economic Development Planner” since I had no actually urban planning experience or degree (not that that fact would preclude one from a planning job with Crook County), I was to administer, enhance and promote the country’s second most populous county’s economic development programs.  Anybody with some decent analytical skills could do that job, and I consider it my de facto internship in the field, although I was entrusted to represent the county as if I had done it for two decades already.

Second of all, I had no interest in working for the Man, becoming an office worker employed by government bureaucracies that stifled my creativity and where I spend my days being ordered about by people with a lower level of education and intellect than my own.  As a Communications major, I could more envision myself being pressured to come up with a new hit television show or advertising campaign than being directed to cold call a grocery store that does not want to come to our community for the twentieth time in the off-chance that they changed their mind in the past month.  Again, not in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that a seven-year-old who was one of the duller pencils in the package in a non-descript suburb of Chicago at that time would be the one directing me to call that grocer a quarter century later.

Third of all, I wanted and believed that I would make it rich.  Like I said, I was not sure how, but I had many friends from wealthy families at the time and, lo and behold, most of them have since become wealthy, themselves, a quarter century later.  Quite a few of the guys that I went to high school and college with went into trading of various sorts including equities, commodities, currencies, options and, of course, stocks.  One of my college roommates has moved fairly high up the ranks with Cisco, one is a radiologist and owns three medical clinics in Arizona, and my best friend is successful in the IT industry.

As you know, through a long series of choices that I made, I have become a Middle Class Guy and sometimes feel like a slug, having to ask someone else much younger than myself for a much-needed day off, being chained to my desk for about forty hours per week, suffering from chronic ankle pain, and I am becoming almost as stylishly (inept) as my late father was.  There are only so many times that you can wear the same shirts and slacks from Kohl’s.

I have spent years chained to desks.

But you certainly don’t want to hear the Woe is Me tale.  When compared to other middle class guys of my ilk, I do not have it so bad.  It all depends on your perspective.

I am collecting over $400 in pay today to hang out, eat, write in a lovely park and pick up my son.  I already took my dog on an hour-long walk around a small lake in our community, and we will be attending the fifth and final home football game for our daughter’s high school tonight.  She is a shining star at these games, more so than the players, as she is the tallest, most beautiful and talented girl on the poms squad (okay, I might be a little biased, but she is definitely the tallest) and then sprints over to gather her trombone and then joins the marching band for its halftime show.

Besides my wife and I both receiving our pay today for a combined $3,300 ($3,000+$300), I have deposited an additional $2,200 which included $1,000 in cash from my stash, which I had to provide ID to deposit, and a one-sixth portion of some dividends inherited from my late father.  I earned an additional $90 for eBook sales.  I transferred some additional funds from our son’s 529 account that should hit our account any day.

Had you told me a quarter century ago that over $6,000 would be deposited into our checking account at one time, I would have definitely thought that I would become rich.  After all, if you had that amount deposited twenty-six times per year, it is a shitload of money.

But, alas, this week is most likely the largest influx of money that we will have this entire year, and we have an even larger amount than that leaving our checking account over the period of the same few weeks.  Two quick notes about that: I transferred $600 to an online savings account, to be withdrawn two short months from now in December for spending money for myself ($100) and for my wife and son ($500) for the three days that they travel to Disney World this December.  I will be giving our daughter, who will be traveling with her marching band, $250 to spend for the entire week.  Also, I will be Paying Myself First with $400 per payday this month instead of the $300 that I usually invest.

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My daughter will be marching down Main Street USA in December. My wife and son will be there to see it and I will be working and holding down the fort.

Some may find these amounts generous and pretty decent for a Middle Class Guy.  However, they are far, far below what I would have envisioned back when Donna Shalala handed me my bachelor’s degree in 1992.  Despite my sending $800 to my Roth IRA account this month, I still have under $40,000 in my IRA, not enough to get us through one year of retirement.

For that nebulous fantasy called retirement, I am hoping and working hard to maintain my gainful employment in municipal economic development, so as to qualify for a pension through IMRF in the amount of about $6,700 per month, with annual increases of three percent.  I am not counting on it, but that is one of the middle class goals that I am striving for.  Not to save two million smackers, but to qualify for about an $80,000 pension in my mid-fifties.

At the end of 2025, I would be turning double nickels years old, and that would be a long thirty-three years after college graduation.  Not exactly earth-shattering to be able to semi-but-not-really retire.  More like concluding my years of municipal servitude, with the chains cut loose for me to be one of those older folks who strives to do something I actually like and care about rather than just doing what needs to be done to pay the bills.

Not to diminish having the skills, ambition and ability to remain gainfully employed in a position that should remain staffed by American humans the coming years.  There are far worse and more tenuous professions that one could have than being an economic developer.

Businesses, brokers and developers are still human beings for the time being, and they must work with humans like me to develop their projects in whatever jurisdiction that they wish to operate in.  And as long as there remain sites to be developed and spaces to be filled, there will continue to be humans doing it.

I think back to twenty-five years ago when I was handed my undergraduate diploma.

My great and loving father was there.  Both of my grandfathers were present.  Unfortunately, neither of my grandmothers lived to see it.  My wife was with us, although she was my girlfriend at the time.  Her mother and brother whom I was very close with were still living and celebrated my graduation with a small family shindig at their house.

Computers certainly existed at the time, but very few people owned one personally.  Nobody that I knew had a mobile phone, let alone purchasing a new, expensive version of the latest iPhone every freakin’ year.  We had never gone online.  Yes, things were different.

Twenty-five years ago I saw the world as my oyster.  Sometimes it seems more like a stale bread to me now, but I am working hard at recapturing some of those high hopes that I had for the future back then a quarter century ago.

I can only think about what the next quarter century will bring.  As a forty-six year old who obtained my bachelor’s degree at the tender age of twenty-one, should I survive to receive the fifty year reunion invitation in 2042, I would be seventy-one years old and retired for over ten years by then.

Perhaps I will attend that one.

Fragile But Fired Up

As a Middle Class Guy, to say that I am a member of a fragile class of persons when it comes to finances is a gross understatement.

Having just received my October 2017 bank statement that, once again, shows more of my family’s financial energy flowing out than in for the third consecutive month, I could feel my blood pressure rising.  Upon reporting our outflow exceeding our inflow by $4,000 last month, I concluded that I will shift my review to a quarterly basis instead, which would better reflect our income versus expenditures, since an individual month can be an outlier as a higher-earning month or a higher-spending month due to expenses like property taxes, auto and home repairs, dividends received or higher sales of my existing eBook.

All told, I was not very surprised to see that $4,400 more left our checking account in the third quarter of 2017 than came in.

Specifically, $28,966 left our account versus $24,539 that came in.  Outliers included having to pay $2,300 for our property taxes in late July and three payments to our son’s college totaling about $7,500.  I also paid off two round-trip airline tickets from Chicago to Orlando for my wife and son, as well as the first night lodging expenses as required for their December Disney World trip.  We also had our home’s gutters fixed, purchased a beautiful dress for our daughter, and paid to replace a shattered car window and more of this and that.

I also continued Paying Ourselves First and contributing $400 to our daughter’s 529 plan on the first of every month, investing a total of $3,300 from July through September $1,200 went to our daughter’s college account and $2,100 was split between my wife’s and my IRA accounts, or $300 per the seven paydays in the past three months.

We typically collectively eat out thirty times or more per month, and we spend in the neighborhood of a grand per month on our groceries.

Considering that we also pay a mortgage, insurance costs, fill our cars with gasoline regularly, purchase wanted and needed articles of clothing and partake of our fair share of entertainment, it is not hard to see how our suburban family spent or invested $29,000 during Q3 of 2017.

Our family’s trend of overspending is set to continue as I have to stroke a check later today to pay off our daughter’s marching band trip to Disney World this coming December and also pay off our new central air conditioning unit, which my wife paid on her credit card.

More Than Just Money

I strongly feel that being a member of middle class America is more than just about income.

Middle class membership is a function of many characteristics and values including, but not limited to, educational attainment, occupation, cultural factors, beliefs, feelings, lifestyle and shopping habits in addition to one’s income and wealth.

Manners, speech patterns, vocabulary, music preference and what one does for leisure time are additional class indicators, although most of those are closely tied to income factors.

Of course, where one shops and how far and where a student obtains an education can be directly linked to one’s income.  Whether one shops at Wal-Mart and sends their kids to community college or no college at all versus someone who shops at Ralph Lauren and sends their children to Ivy League schools is closely tied to income.  I have friends and relatives on both ends of this spectrum, with my own family in the middle.

Part of the American Dream is the ability to seek more education, and a high-quality education has historically been one of the most important ways to access the middle class and above.  This has now become more important than ever as the gap between the haves and the have-nots continues to widen year after year with no end in sight.

Nobody wants their children to only be able to obtain low-skilled jobs like cashiers, truck drivers, data entry, customer service or other jobs that will soon be replaced by automation or outsourced to lower-cost countries.  I want my children to master the latest technologies and be the ones who can profit by the latest advancements rather than be replaced by them.

Workers in these low-skilled categories requiring relatively few skills have special concerns, as their wages typically cannot keep their family out of poverty.  Even if they put in all their hours, they most likely cannot afford a middle class lifestyle and are a precarious missed paycheck or two away from poverty.

It may not be fair, and people smarter than I can dissect and debate the merits of this fact until the cows come home, but all the analysis and talk in the world cannot and will not change the fact that these low-skilled workers, and many or most of us middle class workers are fucked.Image result for until the cows come home

The typical middle class solution to keep your children out of these dire straits is obtaining a strong education and to master the latest and greatest technologies.  The problem is, higher education has become so expensive as to become nearly impossible to obtain without incurring large amounts of debt.

College is fucking expensive, even for prolific savers like myself.  The $2,500 that I just sent yesterday, and every other month save June and July, to our son’s college, puts quite a strain on our budget.  As will the future payments to our daughter’s college.  But I would not trade paying for that for anything, not a nice new car, not an iPhone, not a smart TV or a vacation to Hawaii, although I would love to buy all of those.

 

But no, instead of buying things that would please me and mine in the here and now, I am paying toward our children being able to obtain better-paying jobs within the future economy, which will mostly require extensive schooling, including advanced degrees.

Our son recently informed me that he may even go all the way and obtain his Ph.D.  I would not put that past him at all.  He happily told me that when someone refers to him as “Mister,” he would love to correct them, telling them that “Mister” is me, his father, and that you can call him “Doctor.”  He knows that I am prepared to foot the $100,000-plus cost for his undergraduate education, but beyond that, he is on his own.  After all, we have another $100,000-plus undergraduate education to begin paying for in 2021.

In a Fragile Position

Last year, when I was still a subscriber to The Atlantic, I read Neal Gabler’s story titled “The Secret Shame of the Middle Class” with great interest, as well as dozens of stories and blog posts about it that followed.

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The gist of it was that 47% of Americans including the author would have trouble finding an extra $400 to pay for an emergency.  My first reaction was to not believe it, and my second reaction was somewhat judgmental, figuring that a majority of those who would have trouble coming up with that small amount probably own iPhones and better cars and TVs than I do.  Gabler owns a house in the Hamptons.

But it also got me thinking about why we’re so judgmental when nearly half of us are facing the same cash crunch as the author.  My own family has had in excess of $500 in “extra” and “unplanned for” expenses twelve months out of the last twelve.  I wondered what those people who cannot afford to pay for it do when their air conditioning units give out, when their cars break down and when their children want to go on trips with their marching band.

I guess that they sweat it out without AC, charge the car repairs or go without wheels, and tell their children the Disney trip with their band is a “no go.”

I joke with my wife that we spend an extra $400 to $500 per month like it is water, but that is not actually far from the truth.

That kind of money crunch means that tens of millions of us are not shopping beyond basic necessities. We’re keeping that old beater car like mine, brewing our coffee and taking it to work in a Thermos and not purchasing new clothes, eating out or going on vacation.

For a reader whose income is lower than mine, the $29,000 that left our account in the past three months may sound like a whopping amount.  Six or seven years ago, we would not have been able to afford it.  But to my brother, my best friend and my very successful uncle, that amount would seem pretty low.  It all depends on your perspective.

However, it has become painfully clear that our finances, based about 90% upon what I earn at my job and supplemented by my wife’s very part-time income and a very few eBook sales, are very fragile and a few missed paychecks would have us fall out of the middle class, and fast.

That fact puts me in the same boat as tens of millions of other middle class folks, as the central economic problem for me and my family has become the risk of my job loss.  As a middle aged Middle Class Guy, a job loss at my age could be tantamount to a forced retirement which would force me to either relocate my family entirely for a new job, rely on part-time gigs and my writing skills to put food on the table, or end up completely broke and in massive debt.

Sometimes it feels as if I am in survival mode at work, always seeking out a better opportunity and doing my best to please my young, aggressive and inexperienced new boss.

Why Fired  Up?

So if things are so precarious and difficult and we are all going to be replaced by robots or Mexican or Indian workers, then why am I so fired up?

There are a number of reasons why.  Some that come to mind is that I have been learning to gain a greater appreciation for what I do have, I have made a commitment to begin creating more and consuming less, I have become excited by the prospect of making some money by doing what I love, i.e., writing about things that interest me and a New Year is soon upon us with the many possibilities that it brings if we can set a list of goals and resolutions that we can attain and then stick to our guns.

I am fired up about getting grittier.  I have been becoming a better writer the more that I have worked at it, and it is showing with increased sales last month of my 800-plus page eBook published many years ago, simply by adding a cover to the damned thing.

I made about $90 on it last month, and there is no reason that the amount shouldn’t double or triple.  When I have two additional titles coming out by the end of next year, I hope to make $500 on my eBooks in a month, and then to just go up from there.

I not only preach (can writing be preaching?) self-improvement, but I live it every single fucking day of my life.   It is not an easy process by any means, but it is a worthwhile one.

I am fired up thinking about the possibilities for myself and my readers.  Much of what has held us back has been self-imposed, and much of it has been due to our way of middle class thinking.  It is not my fault or your fault, it is more or less pounded into our heads from the first day that our parents sent us to preschool and reinforced daily from there.

If you can change the way you look at things, they will begin to look different.

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I thought that I had come up with an original quote, but someone by the name of Wayne Dyer beat me to the punch.

But I can attest to the fact that it is true.

My 100 Thing Challenge

I need to declutter in the New Year.

I am not yet a hoarder, but have definitely began exhibiting hoarding tendencies in my mid-forties, purchasing far more books than can be comfortably accommodated in our +/- 1,500 square foot home and many other items that my family and I have acquired through gifts, inheritances, and continual purchases both online and at stores.

I have wanted to declutter my belongings for a while and am making it one of my New Year’s resolutions.  That is a given and an easy decision.  Not so easy for me is grappling with a certain number of items to move out of my life, how to count things in general, the concept of what is mine, and overcoming my fear of wanting or needing the very thing that I gave away, sold or discarded at some future date.

I am the husband/father/breadwinner of a middle class family in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, thus my family is not going to jump on the minimalism bandwagon.  Certain accoutrements of our middle class lifestyle are “required” in this day and age, like iPads, musical instruments, smart phones, a large amount of clothing, pet supplies and quite a few treasured items given to us by loved ones who are no longer with us.

But that does not mean that our stuff could not use some weeding out.  Particularly clutter collected by Yours Truly Middle Class Guy.

The 100 Thing Challenge

The idea of decluttering has been in my mind for quite some time.  My wife has been very understanding of me but has occasionally urged me and our children to pick a certain number of things that we can donate.  With our children, she orders a number of things for them to add to the donation pile and with me she suggests it.  She follows the Fly Lady and goes on a cleaning and organizing binge about once per month and it is best for me if I follow suit.

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In my reading of dozens of blogs and magazines every week, I came across Dave Bruno’s 100 Thing Challenge.  Mr. Bruno whittled his belongings to a mere 100 items and became a best-selling author while documenting it.  I have no intention of getting down to a mere 100 items owned, but I certainly benefit by reading about it and embracing some of his philosophy.

I do not even intend to catalog the items that I own.  Maybe I own 500 things and maybe it is only 250.  I do not really care at this point, but I do want to reduce the items cluttering up my living and work areas, thus lessening my anxiety somewhat this coming year.

As the old saying goes, “You don’t own things, they own you” and I am getting sick and tired of feeling some misplaced loyalty to things that pile up in my house and office.

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I first wanted to tie in my New Year’s resolution with the number 18 for 2018, but eliminating only eighteen things is far too few and our entire family probably does not own 2,108 items.  Perhaps I will get rid of thirty-eight items, i.e., 20+18.

Thirty-eight also being too few, I have settled on my own challenge called The 50 Thing Challenge.  Fifty is a nice round number and refers to the number of items that I would like to get rid of, not trying to get down to.  Fifty-two would be better, but I will give myself two weeks off in 2018 from getting rid of an average of one thing per week.

I realize that ridding myself of fifty things is not the most compelling goal ever conceived of, but the way that I look at it, I have many other goals and resolutions for the upcoming year in addition to ridding myself of unnecessary possessions, and that number still represents fifty less things than I currently have and perhaps I will do that every year from here on out or even increase that number next year.

Things That Come to Mind

As an almost-forty-seven-year-old with a chronic ankle injury, now may be a good time for me to officially announce my retirement from competitive baseball.  Note that I wrote baseball because most people assume that I mean softball.

I am one of a small percentage of guys who played competitive fast-pitch hardball following my college years.  This hobby entailed the purchase of numerous fielding and batting gloves, uniform pants, cleats, helmets and baseballs.

I have not played for the past five-plus years, so why I maintain a collection of baseball items is beyond me.  I suppose that were I ever able and willing to play again, it would not be the worst thing in the world to have to purchase uniform pants again.

I purchased a lacrosse stick for our son, who had expressed some interest in playing the sport in his freshman year of high school.  He used it once, and it has now sat in our garage for the past five years without being used once.  I can part with it and may even make a few bucks from it if I put it on Craigslist.

I still own many shirts from the late eighties.  The funny thing is, I purchased these plaid shirts prior to the grunge era when they became popular and continued to wear them after that era passed.  Now that I see hipster Millennials wearing them, I suppose that they are back in fashion.  I do not really care if they are in fashion or not.  I liked them when I was in my teens and I still like wearing them now that I am in my late forties.  I will not be getting rid of these.

I own many nice sweaters, four of which I have worn in the past several years.  Should I continue to keep the other seven or eight that permanently reside below those four in my bottom drawer?  I suppose that it would not hurt to donate one or two of them.

Mostly, I am saddled with paper.  Reports, articles that I found interesting and want to write about, event programs from dozens of concerts and recitals where our children performed and/or were featured,  Of course, I would not count each paper item as one, but I could certainly count a folder full of fifty pages as getting rid of one item.

I also have ended up owning many tee-shirts through attending trade shows and events where they are given away.  I keep many of them in a dresser in our laundry room and refer to them as my “throw away” tee-shirts, suitable for painting or yardwork or spilling things on them.  At one point, I must have owned twenty-five of these “throw away” tee-shirts, many of which were given to me by a former business associate who managed a West Suburban Bank branch.

I recently donated quite a few of these redundant tee-shirts in a collection of items to be sent to victims of Hurricane Harvey.  Since I was helping to promote the collection in my community, I thought it the right thing to do to donate items, myself.  I also donated several pairs of new, unopened underpants that were purchased by my mother for my late father over five years ago and had been stored under one of our dressers since that time.

New underwear was one of the items that the person who coordinated our collection wrote was most needed.  Talk about getting rid of some clutter, but it makes me glad to think that someone who needed those pairs more than I do is now wearing them.  Whoever now owns it would have no idea from who or where they came from.

I mention giving away that stuff only because those five tee-shirts and new pairs of underwear were to be the beginnings of my 2018 decluttering, along with some other household items that my wife threw in.  Oh well, that just means that the fifty things that I get rid of will not include those.

Struggle Getting Rid of My Kids’ Stuff

In another irony, I am the one who struggles with getting rid of our kids’ stuff.  My wife has no qualms in getting rid of a favorite childhood toy or book that I read to our children a thousand times, but I do.

Clutter including long-unused toys in our basement.

True, our son is now a bearded, long-haired jazz musician of college age and our daughter is on varsity poms and marching band and is taking all honors and AP courses in high school.  So they are both done playing with childhood toys.

I realize that there is a psychological reason why I have a hard time donating their childhood toys.  Every time we do, I am forced to admit that our children are not kids any more.  They are young adults.  Our daughter wants an iPhone, not a plastic pony.  Our son wants another new trumpet, not a plastic dinosaur.

Perhaps I am the one who wants the plastic ponies, dinosaurs, Legos and whatnot, but I promise to assist in moving some or most of them along this coming year and will count those toward my goal of fifty items, although they are not technically mine.

Whose Stuff is it, Anyway?

There is also the issue of what belongs to who.  If I want to get rid of some science books that I bought for my son when he still wanted to become a scientist, is it mine to get rid of?

If I move along a broken cheap clock that some friends of my wife’s and mine got us for our wedding, does that count too?

Of course, there are no hard and fast rules as to what constitutes getting rid of “a thing” or whether it is mine, theirs or ours.  I would count the twenty or so baseballs that I still own as one thing, and I would count the broken wedding gift clock as one thing that I would get rid of, although my wife owns it as much as I do.

Some clutter in our den.

Considering that the four of us, plus our dog, have things that we could live without, I think that I will count any item that I donate, discard or sell as one out of the fifty.

Oh, Yeah…Books

Since books are things, and I will also be adding the resolution of getting rid of fifty more books than I acquire this coming year, I might as well go back to the good old number 100.

Considering that much of my clutter and disorganization could be attributed to the large amount of books that I have piled in every available space, I hereby add another fifty things to get rid of in the form of these books.

Again, I stipulate that I must rid myself of fifty more books than I acquire because I know that it is not possible for me to go an entire year without purchasing more books.  Getting rid of seventy-five books while acquiring only twenty-five I can do in 2018, but getting rid of fifty while not acquiring any I cannot do.  I’m being honest.

So my 100 Thing Challenge will differ from Dave Bruno’s and his many followers who have detailed their success at minimizing their belongings to that small amount.

My 100 Thing Challenge will be to get rid of a total of 100 things or more this coming year, fifty of those “things” being books, and those at a net minus amount to boot.

I realize that this whole thing sounds squishy to you because it does to me, too,  But by the end of 2018, there will be fifty less things in my family’s and my possession and a reduction of at least fifty books out of the hundreds that I own.

Were I in a position to buy a beautiful, nicer and larger home, I would be excitedly planning on having custom bookshelves to house my impressive collection of books built, but that is not to be.

Instead, I must stick to my guns and will, of course, document my efforts at owning less things and creating more while consuming less.

I used to want more things than I do now, and I am learning to embrace the philosophy that Less is More.  I would rather have more money in the bank or in my retirement account at this time in my life than more possessions strewn about my home.

I have often felt “stuck” with too much stuff and I have recognized in the past several years that my best days are spent with my family doing things together outdoors that require minimal consumer items.

Now I want less and intend to declutter our home somewhat, and help myself recognize what items are necessary, which items I love for sentimental reasons, and which items are not needed.

I know that I will feel better about myself once freed from the burden of unnecessary possessions.  After all, I used to be a basically neat person and would like to return to being one again.

Moving along fifty more books than I acquire this coming year, and for a few years thereafter, would be steps in the right direction.

I Can’t Wait

Not that there is anything stopping me from beginning this endeavor immediately upon clicking on the “Publish” button, but I have long been and will remain a big believer in New Starts in New Years.

I have made resolutions in the past that have faded from memory by mid-February like most people have.  I will be revisiting the resolutions that I made at the end of last year at the conclusion of this year to see where I stand with them.

You readers are the ones who will keep me on my toes with the goals and resolutions that I have been formulating both in my mind and in my idea notebook.  One of them will certainly be this 100 Thing Challenge including moving along many books.

I can’t wait to get started on it in the New Year and I also can’t wait to report the results to you.

I was going to conclude this by writing “wish me luck,” but I realize that luck is not involved at all.  Only determination will help me weed out those 100 unneeded things from my life this coming year.

A better conclusion to this is for us to both endeavor to let go of stuff and redirect our focus to more productive things.  I desire clarity, satisfaction and time well spent with my family more than I want possessions and I look forward to the greater sense of contentment and freedom that this will bring.

One hundred things, I’m coming for you!

 

 

Pumpkin Eater

“Hi.  I’m a Middle Class Guy and I’m a Pumpkin Eater.”

Pumpkin eater is in actuality a reference to an uneducated American commoner like a hillbilly or any bumpkin who moved from America’s countryside en mass into America’s inner cities  The term is more akin to the ‘unwashed masses’ as pumpkins were long ago considered poor people’s food, eaten by poor folks who could not afford to purchase middle class food.

Calling Peter a Pumpkin Eater in the famed nursery rhyme was a rude insult. Now the giant, orange squash is a symbol of bountiful harvests and storybook autumns spent frolicking on hayrides.

I should know.  I have consumed some form of pumpkin spice every day for the past two to three weeks, with more scheduled on a daily basis at least through the end of October, probably November.

A sample of our family’s pumpkin-flavored food items.

Over the past week, I have had pumpkin spice donuts, a pumpkin spice bagel, pumpkin spice yogurt, Fiber One pumpkin bars, two slices of pumpkin pie, about ten pumpkin flavored iced coffees, all in addition to the pumpkin spice flavored Dunkin’ Donuts coffee that my wife brews every morning, which I add pumpkin spice flavored Silk Almond creamer to.

Good grief!  No wonder I looked like this in the mirror this morning.

 

 

 

 

All kidding aside, if being called a Pumpkin Eater was once an insult, insinuating that you were a hillbilly who could not afford any food beyond chowing down on the pumpkins growing out on the patch, things have gone in a complete one eighty.

Having traveled four times to the Big Downtown in the past two weeks for business, I can tell you that the number of pumpkin spice lattes being consumed by the upwardly mobile young women was staggering.  There were probably more Millennials drinking those from Starbucks than not.

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The Pumpkin Spice Girls

Although there have been many articles and blog posts about this sweeping phenomenon, this has been a pattern for Yours Truly Middle Class Guy for going on about ten years now.  The difference is that ten years ago it was just a handful of products.  Last year, we went wild with it and this year it is absolutely exploding.

Whereas I may have had a dozen pumpkin-flavored items a few years ago, we have more than doubled that amount here in 2017.

A year ago, I reported having a Very Pumpkiny October.  Little did I know then that we would not only continue our consumption of pumpkin-flavored items, but that we would be expanding it as the food companies continue to take advantage of its popularity.

Looking over last October’s post, I now realize that I am derelict in not having yet purchased any pumpkin-flavored beer.

With the Cubs tied one to one with the Nationals in the Division Series and me having to staff a meeting tomorrow night at the start of the game, it will be too late for me to enjoy a beer tomorrow night.  I realize that it is boring to read, but I can no longer drink beer after 8:00 PM on a weeknight for a variety of reasons.

But win or lose tomorrow night, they will have another game Tuesday evening soon after I get home, and what better time to enjoy a pumpkin-flavored beverage?

I can hardly wait!

What, Me Not Worry?

I have read quite a bit lately about how to cope with one’s anxiety and stress.  God Knows, I have plenty of both.

Reading about it actually helps somewhat, and I am hopeful that writing about it will prove more helpful to me as I share some things about stress and anxiety in general and ways that I have been working toward overcoming them.

I suppose that I was born a worrier.  I am the oldest of three and grew up doing what I could to help out with my younger siblings.  I am the breadwinner for my family and am employed in a highly stressful field in an even more stressful community.

I am hardly unique in experiencing a high level of anxiety and stress, but my own stress has increased rather than decreased this year and I have been forced to confront some of my own shortcomings of late and admit that things have not headed in the direction that I would have hoped and expected them to for Yours Truly Middle Class Guy.

My worry is like a deep-rooted weed.  I did not worry about things very much while growing up, largely because I always enjoyed the benefit of my family including my very supportive parents,, both sets of grandparents living within a few miles of one another about twenty minutes from our house, and aunts and uncles galore.  These were actually mostly my mother’s aunts and uncles, thus my great aunts and great uncles.  Her mother was one out of nine children who grew up poor and with an abusive alcoholic father in a working class Jewish neighborhood.

My worry weed began to grow during my high school years, when the pressure was turned on in sports and academics, and then a lot more during college.  Having completed my undergraduate studies at the UW a quarter century ago, I can vaguely recall worrying a lot about making it through college, and worrying at least a little bit about what one does with a Communications degree.  My father-in-law often asked me that question years before he officially became my father-in-law.

Coming out of college, my worries grew a little bit more.  I could not land a “real job” and soon gave in to my mother’s insistence to attend graduate school.  Soon after commencing my graduate studies, I was hired for a highly stressful job as an Adult Probation Officer for Crook County, Illinois; however I laugh at how low stress that job was now as a long-time economic developer.

Paying off my graduate school debt along with other payments that I really could not afford, like car payments and rent, caused me some worries in my early twenties.  Looking back at that $6,000 in debt seems laughable now when many students borrow amounts like that every year or even every semester.

I could go over the many long years of stress and anxiety as a breadwinner for a family of four, but jumping ahead to the current one, my stress and anxiety was turned up several notches this past June when I learned of my unplanned and unasked for transfer to another department with a new, inexperienced and not so great boss.

I thought that I was already under a lot of stress due to financial and family situations, but little did I know that the stress knob was about to be cranked from about a four to about a seven.

I have experienced restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating at work, irritability, tension in my muscles, headaches and sleep disturbance throughout the last three months.  However, I have been suffering less of all of the above as the weeks pass and this is not just about why I am feeling a lot of anxiety.  It is about how I am dealing with it and planning on overcoming it.

Don’t Stop Worrying About Tomorrow

Fleetwood Mac’s song urges us not to stop thinking about tomorrow.  Me, I cannot stop worrying about tomorrow.  Yes, yesterday’s gone.  I survived yesterday, remained employed, paid my bills, and my wife and children were okay yesterday.

But you, me and Lindsey Buckingham do not know what tomorrow brings.  As we have recently witnessed, you can be mowed down by a crazed lunatic while attending a concert in Las Vegas.  If you live on the east coast, your home could be wiped out without warning, not necessarily tomorrow, but by this time next week it could.  Heck, driving through Chiraq you could be struck down by a stray bullet at any time.

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You could be struck down at any moment in Chiraq

The pink slip could show up on my desk or yours.  A health problem for you or a loved one could be found.  Cancer could start growing in your body.  There’s a lot of shit that could go wrong!

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With a difficult and sometimes tenuous job, I often prefer to avoid thinking about what would happen if I lost my job.  I know that things would go south fast, so to speak.  I wonder how quickly my family would have to give up our middle class status despite me having tried to do everything the “right way” since I was a young boy.

When I wake up to use the bathroom in the middle of most nights due to my enlarged prostate, it is hard for me to put those worries out of my mind as I try to fall back asleep.  A few weeks ago, I would not have been able to, and often told my wife and sometimes a few others that I have been up since 3:45 AM or 4:25 AM or whatever time the urge to go woke me up.

I must be doing a bit better now judging from the fact that I have been able to fall back asleep, although not right away, for the past several weeks including last night.

It Hits You Where It Hurts

I have a chronically injured ankle.  It hurts me every day and has for the past four years and four months, but who’s counting?

Like kicking me in my most vulnerable spot, anxiety hits you and me where it hurts.  It seeks out our weaknesses, insecurities, fears, vulnerabilities and needs.

In my case, and perhaps in yours, my weaknesses often revolve around my work life and the pressure of supporting a middle class suburban family that always costs a bit more than what I can make.

My work situation has greatly exacerbated my anxieties over the past few months, as I strive to adjust to working for a boss who understands little to nothing about the nuances of what I do and was hired as an intern eight short years ago when I was already a highly experienced certified professional in the field of economic development.

A family-related situation increased my stress and anxiety to an even greater extent this past July, when it peaked.  Since then, I have been trying my best to overcome it through blogging, my recent realization that I can add value to others and income for my family by doing what I enjoy the most and am best at: writing this.

Whatever vulnerabilities and weaknesses that my anxiety is going after, I am going to play some defense and then throw some counter punches of my own.

My Counterpunch

When anxiety takes hold, things can look bleak and, in my case, it is hard to turn off my mind with the “what if?” scenarios.  Sometimes I toss and turn most of the night grappling with the “what ifs.”

When anxiety begins to take hold, it expects us to back away or give into it.  It does not expect a counterpunch.  If we decide to step forward and go toe-to-toe and give back as much as we receive, we can courageously take on whatever it is that is causing us the anxiety directly.  No pussy-footing around with it, no avoidance or denial of it.  No Sir.  It is time for us to take it on headfirst, not only because that is what the anxiety gurus tell us to do, but because it works.

Since anxiety thrives on our resistance to insecurity and discomfort, our job is to act in the opposite manner.  Changing our strategies and point of views while accepting that we feel challenged and uncomfortable is possible.

I have been attempting to embrace this concept, myself, so I am not writing this as someone who has already successfully overcome my anxieties, but someone who is moving the ball closer to the goal line of reducing them.  I do not harbor the notion that I will ever be completely free of worries and anxiety, but I do want to have a greater ability to enjoy my life, enjoy my family and become more successful this coming year and in following years without suffering from anxiety at some point most days.

It is not so different from grit, which is to say that if you become single-minded and determined to succeed and prevail, you can overcome your anxiety bit by bit like I have been doing.

It would be nice to just be able to write “Have Less Anxiety” or “Reduce My Anxiety” as a New Year’s resolution.  But I am a middle aged Middle Class Guy and have spent nearly forty-seven years feeding and reinforcing my present mind-set.  True, my mindset has slowly begun to change as a result of my avid reading of nearly every financial and otherwise self-help book that I could get my hands on over the past two years.

I do not expect to instantly change my mindset or yours just by writing it, but by constantly reinforcing it by what I read, think and write about.  If we can set clear goals and Resolutions this coming New Year, I believe that together we can become better versions of ourselves.

I know that there is a better, less anxious, grittier person inside of me who can create more and consume less.  I could, would, should and will increase my confidence and reduce my anxieties.

I am embracing several strategies that have helped lead me down the path of breaking the cycle of my anxiety, and the following are a dozen elements of it.  I cannot say that these are all elements of it because coping with my worries is a constantly shifting thing and  differs from one day to the next depending on what is going on in my workplace, in my home life and with my family’s finances.  But there are some general commonalities that have helped.  Here goes:

I Try To Leave Work at Work

Honestly, I am not so good at this.  I often think and talk about work-related matters when I am at home.  Some nights, I think about things that I should have done or how I should do something or about something that I forgot to do.

I think about things that I should not have said at meetings and also come up with brilliant things that I should have said.  I am doing all of the above more now than I have in the past several years, since the pressure cooker has been turned on at work.  Now that I am basically being measured by how many businesses I bring into the town, it leaves less time for me to build the foundation that I have been cultivating with many prospects and forces me to go straight for the throat.

Even now it causes me anxiety just writing about it.  What I need to do is to learn to leave work at work.  Especially when I drive away from the Village Hall on a Friday afternoon.

My previous boss, who I greatly admire and has been through just about everything development-related, used to tell me that by the time he was a block away from Village Hall every day, he could not even remember where it is that he works.

My new boss lives, breathes, thinks and texts work 24/7/365.  I want to do the opposite and leave it at my place of work and no further.  No need for my family to hear about every stressful thing that I am involved in.  Telling my wife about some of the most stressful things usually helps me feel better a bit when I get some sympathy, but it still does not change what it is that I need to do or how my colleagues, bosses and the businesses, themselves, feel about my performance.

I Try To Sleep More

Inevitably, my stress and anxiety builds up even more when I am not sleeping well.  Because of our worries, we do not sleep as well and, in turn, we are less able to cope with things and get what we need to do done when we are not well-rested.

If you have ever experienced a few days in a row with little to no sleep, you know that it is hard to function at your best, think clearly and achieve peak performance in anything.  During my stressful July and somewhat through August, I had some sleepless nights followed by nights with only two or three hours of sleep.

Try testifying in a public hearing that is being recorded with developers and audience members listening after sleeping only three hours in two nights.  You would not want a truck driver on the road, an airline pilot in the air or a surgeon performing under those circumstances.  Not that my job is quite that concentration-intensive, but I know that I was feeling the strain of being even more anxious than usual while less rested than ever.

Funny thing is, after a six or seven hour sleep night, I came into work the next day feeling like a new man and proved more adept at dealing with stressful situations that came my way.

I Read A Lot

As they say, reading takes me away for the hours that I do it, whether it be for an hour before going to sleep, during my lunch break or over the weekend or on holiday.

Last week, I read Daniel Silva’s latest book, The House of Spies.  As I told my wife before going to bed one night, “I’ll see you later, I’m going to the Cote de Azur for a meeting to recruit the wife of the biggest drug lord in France.”  While reading it for a few hours that night, I really did find myself in countries where I have never been and in situations far stressful than my own.

Currently, I am reading Jonathan Kellerman’s latest, Heartbreak Hotel.  Even though this book and the last one that I read comprise a definite break from the self-help books that I have favored since the beginning of last year, it calms me greatly while reading it and I can always return to reading things that help me.

Regarding those books in the genre that I have coined “Change Your Way of Thinking/Improve Your Life/Become Wealthy,” they have helped me change my way of thinking and, in one important instance, have changed my behavior.

My wife and I went out on a very rare, perhaps once per year, “double date” with a couple that we are friends with.  The husband is a certified financial planner, so we mostly talk finances.  When I told him that I always Pay Ourselves First with every paycheck after reading Start Late, Finish Rich by David Bach last year, he commended me on changing my behavior rather than just reading and thinking about it.

That made me feel pretty good, and I am looking forward to Paying Myself First next week a few days before payday.

I Reframe My Thoughts

Reframing my thoughts is the hardest challenge of all.  If you have been brought up as a Middle Class Guy like I have, it is nearly impossible to change the way that we think of things like money, work, time, energy, consumption, expression, obligations and many other things.

Although my expenses are considerable for a family with our income, I have made some strides toward thinking of our money as a source of energy that sustains what we need and where we want to be.  True, it is not required that our daughter go on two Disney World trips in three months or that my wife and son go along for the first one, but it sure is nice.  It is not required that we foot the entire $100,000-plus price tag on our son’s undergraduate education at a private college, but it sure is nice.  It is not required that our daughter take private music lessons every week on top of everything else that she does, just as our son did for quite a few years, but it sure is nice.

I could stress out over the eleven or twelve grand that will have left our checking account last month and will again this month in October of 2017.  But I am not.  I am reframing my thoughts to be grateful that I have the ability to pay for all of these, and I am thinking more about earning additional income instead of fretting over the constant outflow of our funds.

I Walk

I walk a one-and-a-half mile loop around the downtown where I work about half the time.  I would like to say most days, but I have many days where I travel somewhere for lunch meetings and many days when I just do not feel like it.

I take my lunch hour within minutes of 12:30 most days and, much of the time, the pressure has mounted throughout the morning.  My boss looks at me like I am nuts many days when I leave for lunch and, reading his young, tactless mind, I can read the thoughts of “How can you go to lunch now when we have so many pressing issues to attend to?!”

“Well,” I think to myself.  “If those issues have to wait for an hour, they will still be there and I will have some renewed mental focus when I return.”

I walk past him as he texts somebody from his office and head out for my walk.

Lo and behold, I feel much better when I return.  Many times, I have come to a reasonable strategy on how to handle something that seemed too difficult to deal with before lunch, and many days, I leave my work behind me and think of the bigger picture when I walk.

My 1.5-mile loop takes roughly half of my lunch hour, and I normally spend the second half reading.

I get home around 5:00 PM most days and typically take my dog for a long walk after dinner.  We say to some neighbors, I let her sniff around a bit, I pick up her poo, and she pees about twenty-five times.   Sometimes my wife or one of our children accompanies us, but that is perhaps only one out of ten times, so it is almost always just my sweet baby and me.

Like at work, I feel better about myself and life, in general, when we go on a nice leisurely stroll.

No matter how much stress and anxiety I am experiencing, going for a nice walk and contemplating nature, the state of affairs and life, in general, helps me cope better with it.

I Recognize My Anxiety

This seems simple, but are you always able to recognize when you are feeling especially anxious?

For years, I would go from one thing to another, drop what I am doing for some seemingly urgent assignment, and then drop that one when something more urgent comes up.  Like an emergency room physician or detective responding to a murder scene, but for local government issues.  Believe me, they never end.  Ever!

So when things start piling up, when I get an urgent email from the boss at the same time that my phone is ringing and someone drops in unannounced to take an hour of my time when I have a time-sensitive project due, I take a step back.

In those situations, that seem to happen at some point daily, I take a deep breath, recognize that I am feeling anxious, and employ some of these techniques to deal with them.

Learning to prioritize is key.  When the boss needs something, or the Mayor, the guy who dropped in unannounced can wait for a bit.  I can let the phone call go to voicemail if need be.

When it gets too overwhelming, I get up out of my chair and go for a walk, even if it is just around Village Hall.  Maybe I will go to the bathroom, maybe I will stop by the break room.  Maybe I will go outside for some fresh air for a minute.

The important point in all of this is that I am now able to recognize when my anxiety is peaking and then take a quick step back for a minute or two.  Before I was able to recognize this, I would deal with all three things at once and sometimes bungle the handling of them.

No more.

I Dream

I have become a believer in making your own luck, working diligently toward success and using grit and creativity to achieve your goals.

That does not stop me from dreaming of greater success or how I would like to be or how I would like our family’s life to be when I am going to sleep at night.

Yes, I dream of you purchasing this eBook, thus transferring some much-needed funds into my account.  I dream of selling thousands of copies, of eventually creating a newsletter and/or podcast that people would actually benefit from and perhaps compensate me for.  I dream of getting a bigger, better and more important job.  I dream of my investment in NUGT shooting up in value rather than hemorrhagging my money.

Sometimes I even dream of all of it – getting a better and higher paying job, selling a thousand copies of eBooks per month and watching my triple-leveraged gold miner ETF shoot through the roof.

Those nights, I fall asleep with less anxiety than usual.

Sometimes I Zone Out

Self-medicate BAD.  Self-improve GOOD.

Although the gurus all tell you about the evils of easing your anxiety with pills and alcohol, sometimes that is all that will work.

I have a lot of night meetings in which I testify on controversial items, such as a developer wanting to build a commercial project on a commercially-zoned lot that happens to be near people’s homes.

Never mind that the property has been zoned for commercial development since before the resident moved in, but they do not want “that kind of project” so near their homes.  It does not matter if “that kind of project” is a restaurant, a car wash, a banquet facility, an office complex or a gas station, they do not want it near them.

After working a full and stressful day and then testifying at a public meeting, like I will be doing this coming Monday night, it is hard to come down.  On those nights, I plan on popping a pill, which in my case is not a prescription narcotic but a Tylenol PM.  It used to be Advil PM pills until they caused me stomach problems that led to my very shitty day a year ago.

A beer or two or a glass of wine or the occasional mixed drink also does wonders for me relaxing a bit and falling asleep at night.  I am not talking heavy-duty drinking, but two maximum.

On those rare occasions where I enjoy a beer or glass of wine with dinner, and then take a Tylenol PM, those are the nights when I really lose track of my anxiety and sleep like a baby for a few hours until my prostate wakes me up.

It is not necessarily self-improvement advice, but it is the truth.

I Am Learning to Accept Some Failure

To get where we want to go, we are going to encounter some failures.  In my place of work, and in my life, I have had a low to zero tolerance for failure.  Thus, I have not tried anything “big,” instead settling for mediocre to good, but never really swinging for the fences.

In my preliminary list of New Years resolutions, I had written the goal of failing at something, but that is a bitter pill to swallow.  After all, if I have a goal of publishing three eBooks, including the one that you are reading this in, is that an accomplishment in itself, or is it a failure if I only sell a dozen copies including one to my mom?

I have failed on a few occasions, including not getting the job that I truly wanted and my former best friend in the field of economic development got instead.  I succeeded in becoming a licensed real estate appraiser many years ago, but failed after I only got a few assignments due to my not readily agreeing to appraise it for whatever the selling price was.  Some may view that as a success due to my morals, but making a lot more money prior to the Recession would have been a greater success.  Those homes would have been underwater with or without my appraisal.

I cannot say that I failed at being promoted to the job that my young boss now has because I was never on track to be an administrator.  Long ago I made the choice to become an economic developer, and I am now stuck with that for better or worse.

I am not sure what I would fail at, but I suppose failing to sell more than a handful of copies of my eBooks would qualify.

I Take Heart from Those More Successful Than Me

I graduated from a well-known high school in the Chicago area back in the late eighties.  Many of the graduates from my high school, and even more from the UW in 1992 have gone on to achieve great success.

Many of my former high school classmates have become multimillionaires, and one of them closer to a billionaire.

Many times when I compare myself to them, I wonder where I went wrong.  Some of these were not even the brightest students around, but they sure did turn out to parlay their skills into long-term success.

Most of the multimillionaires have gone into high tech, which I suppose is a given.  One was not even in honors math or science courses, but has gone on to found a company that sells advertisements based on people’s location and purchasing history, the new big thing.  Another was an early pioneer of artificial intelligence who sold his company to the giant search engine in the sky for a freakin’ hundred million smackers!  Several are successful doctors and lawyers.

One of my closest friends growing up has become a high-tech millionaire and lives in an upscale suburb of Boston, supporting his wife and three children in a decidedly upper class lifestyle.

When I am faced with speaking publicly at a meeting where I know I am going to take some heat, it actually helps me to think of those fellow graduates who have become more successful than me.  I think to myself, “If Joe Schmo is the CEO of a company and has to report quarterly to a corporate board or speak on a conference call to shareholders, I can certainly handle speaking at my town’s Economic Development Committee.”

I may be small potatoes compared to my more successful fellow graduates, but I can take heart knowing that if they can take the heat, so can I.

I Take Heart From Those Less Successful Than Me

Sometimes I forget that there are many people who would gladly switch with me and become an economic development professional with a (low) six figure salary, health benefits, vacation and sick days, a spacious office, a loving wife, two great children, a fantastic dog, an okay house on a one-third-acre lot and a few bucks in the bank.

One of my best friends recently retired at the age of seventy.  I know, a lot of mid-forties guys have friends their own age, but one of my better friends who I still get together with about once per month is retired.  He is one of the nicest and wisest people that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and is a pastor of Mexican descent who grew up in an adoptive family in New Mexico.

My wise friend has listened to me grouse about my worries at work and at home, and has always dispensed advice.  Going out to lunch with him is better for my mental health than any $500 per hour counselor or psychiatrist would be.

A few meetings ago, he told me that many people would kill for what I have: a solid local government job making over a hundred grand with twenty-four years into a defined benefit pension plan, an adoring wife and children, a few bucks in the bank, and some occasional vacations.

Those that he ministers to at his church often have far less than you and I do, and some of them toil in positions like landscapers, dishwashers, retail clerks, taxi drivers, house cleaners and such.  My friend reminded me that many of them do not have any money in the bank or even use banks, let alone a pension in their future.

When I get down on myself and my lot in life, it helps to remind myself that there are millions of people less fortunate than we are.

I Persevere

Last but not least, I strongly believe in the quality of perseverance.  Both of our children have faced numerous challenges, many of which are typical for kids growing up in today’s age when everything that someone says or does is instantly shared with many others.

It may sound corny, but I remind them that our family perseveres.  Maybe not to the extent that my grandfathers did, but we remain steadfast in our efforts to overcome difficulties in our efforts to do something well.

Whether it was working my way through graduate school while maintaining full-time employment or working my ass off during the Great Recession to keep our community developing and, thus, retaining my job, I believe in the value of perseverance.  It is not something that I am learning to embrace; it is something that I have believed strongly in since my father told me about his own philosophy many years ago.

Perseverance is something that I practice as well as preach.

Born a Worrier

Timeanddate.com just showed me that I have been alive for over 17,000 days, and sometimes it feels as if I have worried a lot for over 10,000 of those days.  Maybe close to a million times I have worried.

I am a chronic worrier.  I worry about my children all the time, I worry about my wife’s well being and about me trying to be a better husband, I worry about my widowed mother and the challenges that my brother is facing.  I worry about a good many of my tasks and assignments at work.

I worry about my day when I wake up, and I worry about the next day when I am going to sleep.  Worry worry worry.  I guess that I am officially a worry wart.

Worrying typically involves persistent thoughts about a future possibility or event—whether your presentation will go over well with your boss next week, or what to wear to a party in which you know you’ll be seeing people who you would rather not see

Since the past is behind us forever, I will now worry about the future.  Since everything from here on out after I write and then you read this is in the future, I worry that I will not be able to continue supporting my family in the Middle Class Guy style that we have become accustomed to.  I worry about my two children in the present and the future as everything seems to be on its way to be completely automated or outsourced.  I worry that my wife and I will be forced to subsist on Ramen Noodles after I toil in the public sector for thirty-plus years.  I worry about the future of the country.

I do not harbor any illusions that I will ever be truly worry free, but it sure would be nice not to worry about things every day of this coming year and the years after that.

If you do not worry about things like I do, kudos to you and my hearty congratulations.  If you do worry about things as much as I do, or even more, let us remember the twelve things that I mentioned on how to better handle our anxiety and whatever other way works best for you.

This may be my longest post on the topic of worry and anxiety, but it most certainly will not be the last.

I’m So Excited!

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The original name for this post was going to be “Manic Me!” but the word manic tends to connote poor mental health, as in manic depression.

Not that I do not sometimes suffer from poor mental health, as many others do from time to time, but I do not think that I could be formally classified as manic depressive.  Most of the time, I am quite the opposite, extremely even keeled.

But several nights ago after reading for a few hours, first a few chapters from Daniel Silva’s latest spy thriller and then about a half hour of a self-help book, I felt so excited that I wanted to run around shouting for joy.  Seeing how it was nearly midnight and my wife was already snoring away and our daughter was sleeping right across the hall, and we all had to be up for the day in six short hours, I kept the excitement to myself.  But I did get up and scrawl down these notes for this post.

I scrawled the notes for this post at 12:30 AM this past Wednesday.

We had just had a new central air conditioning unit installed the prior day, so perhaps it was the comfortable feeling of cool air blowing on me while I read and thought about one of my favorite topics, and one of yours too…money.

Normally I may have been stressing out over shelling out an unplanned $2,500 the previous day during a month when we were already going to spend and invest more than what would be coming in.  Of course, with a beautiful, vivacious and well-liked daughter who is now in high school, how could I not have anticipated purchasing a new dress for homecoming and sending her to the hairdresser?  Or making a $650 payment toward her December band trip to Disney World plus another $150 deposit for her poms trip to the same place two months later?  The $2,500 that I sent to our son’s college seems routine by now so I barely even thought about it.

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Oh well, I thought to myself.  I have previously written about money as a form of energy and there I was lying in bed in the wee hours of a new day when I would be traveling to downtown Chicago for a trade show for about ten hours thinking about just that.  How the $2,500 that my wife paid the previous day was directly converted into the energy of the contractor who spent about four hours installing our new central air unit and how now that was being converted into electrical energy being used to keep us comfortable.

That is when I felt a lightning bolt hit me and realized that I was very close to thinking about money in non-linear terms.  I felt gratitude that I was able to pay the ten, eleven or twelve grand throughout the month of September to keep our family doing relatively well, while also investing over one thousand of that into our future.

I would not worry about having to come clean for the fourth or fifth time about how two or three or even four grand more left our account this month than came in.  Fuck it, I thought, I will probably start reporting the funds in and out on a quarterly basis, since that is how the financial institutions do it.  Plus, what was I going to do?  Not replace our air conditioner in ninety-plus degree weather so I would not have to admit to overspending again on this blog?

No, I instead thought about how grateful I am that I am able to convert my expertise in economic development and hours worked into a beautiful new dress, a strong education for two children, good food for my family, music lessons for our children, trips to Florida during the winter months, a roof over our heads and energy to cool the air under that roof.

Instead of fretting over what for us and most other Americans would qualify as a large amount of funds that were leaving our coffers this month, I thought that following-up on my All Apologies, But Not Really post, that I should be thinking more about ways to earn an extra grand or two per month with my writing instead of giving in to anxiety about running out of money.

What I wanted to run about the house and shout about, which would be an extremely manic thing to do, was that I am going to publish three or more eBooks soon, they will sell some copies, and I will begin earning additional income from my thoughts rather than just by selling my labor.

When customers purchase and read them, I might be laying in the bathtub, I may be watching a movie with my wife, I may be waiting to pick up my daughter from school or my son from his college, I may be in a meeting with a business, I may be watching the Cubs game, or I may be sleeping in my bed.

The reader (you) may be on an airplane, lying by a pool, taking a train to work, laying in bed at night, sitting in the library next to me, in a prison cell or in a state or country where I have never been.  Perhaps some combination of the above.

I love writing and am writing this in a lovely library setting near my son’s college on a Friday afternoon while taking a much-needed day off.  I feel good about creating this instead of consuming, and I am enjoying what I am doing rather than completing a mundane task assigned to me by my new boss or his boss.  All things that the gurus preach, and here I am preaching it, too.

I am writing this post in a library near my son’s college.

If you do not know who or what I mean by the gurus, I mean the Rich Dad, the Money Madman, Suze Orman, Dave Ramsey, Tony Robbins, David Bach and so on and so forth.  I have read books by all of them and many more and most of them are great reading.

I have read in several self-help financial books that money is an infinite resource, and that is something else that I got excited about because I almost started believing it.  I have always thought of money as a scarce resource, like my father did and his fathers before him.   I certainly do not expect to sell a hundred thousand copies of my eBooks, but I do expect to sell thousands over the years once I have a few out there.

I came to the realization that if I write this well enough, come up with an eye-catching title and at least a decent cover, that there really is not anything stopping me, or you for that matter, from selling a thousand or two thousand copies of eBooks per month.  Or it may be selling products for you, or design services, or “how to” courses, or videos of your cat on YouTube, or creating new iPhone apps.  Whatever it is, nobody is going to tell you that you cannot do it but yourself.  And if they do tell you that you cannot do it, well, Fuck them!

I have read nearly two hundred books in what I have coined the “Change Your Way of Thinking/Improve Yourself/Become Wealthy” genre and, although I have not already accomplished those three things like every well-known author has, I have recognized the need for myself to do so and am taking a baby step here and there.

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What struck me like a lightning bolt at midnight three nights ago about not worrying so much about the money going out felt like a concrete step in the changing of the way I think.  I did not instantly transform from Yours Truly Middle Class Guy into a twenty percenter, but I had thoughts in my head that more closely resembled my best friend’s, my former boss’s and my brother’s than what would have been my own over the past twenty-five years.

I decided not to wait any longer for my ship to come in.  If I just keep waiting for that, my life would continue to pass by me while I toil for my family’s proverbial bread, and a smattering of people, mostly my family, would lament my passing whenever that may be.

I want to work toward building my own ship, taking my own life by the reins, creating more than I presently do while consuming less, and converting my anxiety into grit.

I cannot honestly write that I have completely turned the mental corner, but if I look hard enough, I think that I can identify where the corner is.

 

Quit Your Whining!

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I got a deal for you!

I won’t whine if you don’t.  Nobody wants to hear it, anyway.  As a middle aged Middle Class Guy living in the Midwest, nobody really wants to hear of my woes.  Tales of overcoming woes people want to read and hear about.

Let us resolve together here and now to do our best to quit whining and get to work in 2018.

We need to own our own attitudes, decisions, behaviors, reactions and emotional investments.  When we are feeling down in the dumps, as I have lately most workday mornings while on my way to work for my new boss in my new department, I have to check myself along the way.

I am striving to challenge my reactions and redirect my anxiety to generate some energy and positive feelings while at work.  Many a lesser man would not have made the recent transition to a new office and a somewhat blundering, but generally good-willed, new boss fourteen years my junior.

I am striving to gain some amount of control over my own schedule and activities, as I had for the past twelve years under my old boss, and not become the slave to a negative situation and my weaker, less constructive emotions.

True, I do complain a bit more than before when at home recounting my stressful day to my wife, but I am trying to improve upon that, too.

In her book, stop whining, START LIVING, Dr. Laura Schlessinger wrote that some of us consider ourselves one-note musical instruments, either happy or sad; angry or glad; hateful or loving; and so forth.  In truth, she writes that ambivalence is a normal part of the human being – and being able to cope with more than one note or chord is essential to a full and joyful life.

After reading that, I realized that I ran a full gamut of emotions today, from being mad, to happy, to anxious, to aggressive, to passive, to contemplative, to lustful, to guilty, to gritty to wistful.  I can recall well the moments when I felt these  and realize upon writing this that it is completely normal to feel this range of emotions, and more, within the same day.  Sometimes you can feel them all within the same hour or even minute.

It is a test of maturity and grit to confront a mood and reject it.   One of the most difficult things to do is get active or accomplish something difficult when you are feeling low.  I should know, having been there more times that I can count.

But like the song by Chumbawumba says,

I get knocked down, but I get up again.  You are never gonna keep me down

Unfortunately, sadness and disappointment is a fact of life.

There are countless tragedies, accidents, disappointments, losses, challenges, betrayals, problems, diseases and other things beyond our control that effect all of us.

If you have reached a certain age, as I have, then you, too, have experienced great losses.

Beyond those, there is growing strife in our country, a widening gap between the Powers That Be and the rest of us, hatred and random acts of violence and malevolence that make everyday life a struggle for most people.

There never seems to be a shortage of bad news or things breaking down or the threat of attack or people trying to hack into what you and I have worked so hard for.  Many people would be happy to take what we have worked years or decades to achieve for their own benefit without giving it a second thought.

On that cheery note, I again urge us not to be whiners.

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Part of being less of a whiner and more of a winner is to check yourself daily and learn to recognize those situations that make you feel negative.  Let’s take more control over these situations and become masters of overcoming rather than slaves to the weaker, less constructive emotions like anxiety, anger and frustration.

Blaming our work and life situations, bad experiences, bosses, coworkers, parents or children, spouses or plain old bad luck is easy.  I have blamed all of the above, then some, for my unfortunate situation at work, our mounting expenses and lack of funds, my own lack of organization and years of lacking the drive to become successful.

Why then have my younger and brother become more successful?  What has stopped me from better utilizing my writing and speaking ability?  It certainly is not my new thirty-two-year-old boss.

The person who has held me back the most stares back at me in the mirror every morning when I brush my teeth and shave.  Even though I am well-known to be a hard, diligent and honest worker, I have always done so at the behest of others and never for myself prior to launching this blog and publishing eBooks.

I do not know your story, but a lack of my own effort, courage, patience and commitment has held me back somewhat.  I have found it easier to read fiction and watch TV or surf the web for hours every single night for the past several decades instead of the more unpleasant task of writing or at least reading about self-improvement.

A new year is nearly upon us.  We can hope that it will be better than this one, or the last one, or the year before that, but we are far better off taking concrete baby steps one small goal at a time to become our more ideal us.

Whining about our predicaments and that which makes us unhappy does not seem to help in my experience.  Although it may make me feel a little better to complain to my wife about work for a few minutes, it nonetheless does not change anything the next day when I go back.

I cannot truthfully write here that I Resolve not to whine or complain about things anymore, but I certainly will do less of it next year.