Risk Every Spare Dollar (Wisely)

Conventional wisdom tells us to not to risk money. Conventional wisdom is wrong sometimes.

Note: This post is about SPARE money. This is money that you might have otherwise spent on a TV or new clothes. This is NOT your rent money or food money. If you risk money you need to live off ofRead More

I Am Successful – Are You?

Success is so elusive for some.  For others it is deceptively simple. Why is this?

I am currently successful, even though it might not be evident to others.  The reason I am successful already is because I haveRead More

What’s Your Story?

We’re all the same and love is blind.  ~ The Killers (Change Your Mind)

Five years ago, a few of us from my college were talking with a homeless man for a while, just listening to his story. He explained how a divorce with his wife eventually led to him being homeless.  Another man we talked with flat out told us that he chose to be homeless and liked it more! He mentioned the freedom of having no bills or responsiblities. An intriguing perspective to say the least.

While in high school, my sister said that a guy told her he thought I was stuck up. I was floored and upset because of how opposite I was from that – I was painfully SHY.  Shyness is often confused for egotism.

I know each of you have examples in your own life of your first impressions being completely wrong of others.  It is still difficult not to put labels on people when they choose to label themselves. For example, those who dress goth, emo, thug, homeless, business, and ballet dancer are associating themselves with everyone else who dresses that way.

Labeling Others: Why Do We Do It?

Do you see how different the stories were of those homeless men?  Why then, would we affix a single label to them that defines them in our minds?

Humans prefer to know things.  We use science to try to understand everything about the world we live in.  We want to know how that hummingbird is hovering so steadily and why puffer fish are so poisonous.   Those examples have traceable causes.  Hummingbirds flap their wings up to 90 times per second. Puffer fish are believed to get their poison from their diet, as scientists at Nagasaki University have bred poison-free puffer fish by controlling the fishes’ diet.

Did you know that hummingbirds (and other birds and insects) get lift from both the down stroke and the up stroke of their wings?

Our desire to understand our world is what causes this unfortunate problem.  When we see a stranger, instead of logically accepting them as a complete question mark, we’ll make a quick judgment by observing their attire, gait, demeanor, and activity.  Like the science examples, humans have some traceable causes for who they are.  But there are so many variables in our lives that affect each other in complex ways that it is impossible to fully understand why any one person is the way that they are.

Scale It Back

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being observant.  For example, I’ve found that observing yourself is the best way to destroy bad habits.  Having an active mind and observing your surroundings is a great way to learn.

Like many things in life, we need to seek out the middle ground here.  Humans like extremes, but they are rarely the best option.  Do not label anyone so thoroughly that you don’t leave room for a change of opinion.  At the same time, I must advise against walking up to a gang and asking them if they’d like to go ballroom dancing with you.

Everyone Has A Story

Eyes Tell A StoryWe are a fantastic species.  We are all unique with our own hopes, dreams, fears, and insecurities.  More importantly, we all have a story.  If you want your life to be a whole lot more fascinating, start asking strangers what their story is.  Even the most hardened hearts will often soften when someone takes an interest in their story instead of their criminal record or why they wear socks with sandals.

We are drawn to stories.  Movies, books, video games, plays…they are based on story.  If you’re a Christian like I am, you believe humans are a key part of an amazing story of creation and redemption.  If you’re a naturalist, you believe we’re the most capable species in part of the incredible story of life ex nihilo.

Any way you slice it, humans are part of a larger and smaller (personal) story. At this basic level, we’re all in the same boat.  I think Bob Marley was on to something.

I might write about my story on here (or as a book) someday, but right now I would love to hear your thoughts on this post.  And if you’re willing, I would love to hear your story right now (as brief or lengthy as you wish to share).  Feel free to leave it as a comment or use the contact form to email it to me if you’d rather not share it with everyone else.

This song had me in tears just now. It is by one of my favorite bands – Keane. To me, it speaks of a person wanting nothing more than to be understood. Deep down, that’s all of us.

So be understood…

What’s your story?

Freaking Stupid, Cute Little Puffer Fish

This is an atypical post for Deep Existence, but I can’t pass up sharing a funny story that makes me look bad.  😀

Kill Devil Hills @ The Outer Banks, NC – May 2nd, 2011

We had to try to save the cute little puffer fish.  He was helpless on the beach and we wanted to send him home.  I bravely volunteered to toss him back from whence he came.

As I balanced the puffed-up specimen on a large seashell in my left hand, I realized that two women were watching me.  It doesn’t matter if the two women are your sister and grandma – when women are watching a man throw something, he must throw it well.  As such, I knew that a left-handed throw would not suffice.  Heck, that could be embarrassing.  So I suavely shifted the open-faced puffer fish sandwich into my right hand.

Not only was I going to be a hero for saving the poor puffer fish, but I would throw it really far like Joe Montana.  I heaved it as hard as I possibly could into the sea.

Reality sucks.

  1. Ego damage – It was a not anything like a Joe Montana pass.  The puffer fish slid off of the shell prematurely and it ended up looking like a shanked NFL punt.
  2. Physical damage – Due to the loss of the puffer fish’s weight right before swinging my arm wildly, I pulled a muscle in my back (it still hurts).
  3. Morale damage – The cherry on top was seeing the puffer fish helplessly float right back onto the shore.

Oh yeah, and I think I could have died.  I was touching it and holding it.  Little did I know that there is enough toxin in a puffer fish to kill 30 human beings. The toxin is mostly internal, but it does reside on their skin and spines (he was puffed).  To give you an idea of the toxicity – it is 1200 times more poisonous than cyanide.

Katie: “Aren’t they poisonous or something?”

Stephen: “Yeah, I think I’ve heard something about that, but I’m not sure.”

*Stephen picks up puffer fish*

Puff Daddy

Here I am holding puff daddy as if he isn't dangerous.

Two minutes later…

Stephen:  “I wonder what the protocol is for washing hands after handling a puffer fish.”

*Stephen eats sandwich*

I was casually eating a sandwich right after handling a creature covered in lethal poison?!  Mmm…yeah.  I’m just an extreme person who takes risks.  It’s neat that I didn’t die.  My back is killing me, but only figuratively speaking.

Interesting fact: Puffer fish are a delicacy in Japan. Highly trained chefs must cut the meat in such a way that the customers are not destroyed internally from eating it. There are still about 100 deaths per year from this.

The cost of a single serving of puffer fish? Hundreds of dollars and your life (tax).

…but you can throw or lick them for free.

Lick of Death

"A man was killed today after he licked a puffer fish."

Motivation: How To Use It Correctly

At the end of one year, about ten percent of people are still on board with their New Year’s Resolution, according to Dr. Jim Taylor.

My New Year’s Resolution: To provide an alternative to trying to change once a year using a heavily flawed, proven-to-fail method.

The reason I’m not writing about this closer to New Year’s day is that many of you have already failed your New Year’s Resolution(s).  This hopefully means you’re receptive for a new idea.  In addition, I can write about New Year’s whenever I want to.  😀

So maybe you’re already on board with believing New Year’s Resolutions to be pointless.  Great, but do you understand why they don’t work?

Abusing Motivation

When you abuse something, it loses appeal.  It is degraded.  It is weakened.  New Year’s Resolutions abuse motivation.  Motivation is temporary in nature while New Year’s Resolutions are long-term goals.  You’ll see why this is a problem later.

Motivation has a profoundly negative effect on our lives when we abuse it.  Unlike other failures, a motivation-based failure to achieve a goal does more harm than good because it is not something we naturally learn from.  It is evidence in our minds that we don’t have what it takes to be who we want to be.  Of course this is not true, but it is difficult to believe in yourself after repeated internal failure.

A newly motivated mind considers previous instances of motivation and what results came of it.  Imagine a person with a success rate of 95% when they are motivated to do something.  At 95%, motivation is strong because the perceived likelihood of success is very high.  Now replace that with a 20% success rate – motivation suffers.

Motivation Is A Cannibal

It feeds upon itself and works best when it works.

I bet that was confusing to read.  Allow me to explain that mess.

Motivation is best created under probable conditions of success.  In other words, don’t be motivated to lose 100 pounds, be motivated to lose 2 pounds.  If you think this is a small difference, then I BEG you to reconsider for your own good.  Here is how each one usually turns out.

The Grand New Year’s Resolution: Decide to lose 100 pounds this year

You weigh 300 starting out and the goal is 200.  This would be an incredible accomplishment!  You start out ready to do it.  You are so motivated that you lose 10 pounds in the first month.  You kick it up a notch and lose 15 more the next month.  You are well on your way!

Weight Loss MotivationInto the 3rd month you’ve lost 35 pounds, but you sprain your ankle and have to rest.  You gain some weight back.  You lose focus on the goal for a while and try to get back into it, but at 8 months you’ve only lost 40 pounds and you know you won’t reach the goal.

You finish the year at 270 pounds.  You’re mentally worn out from trying to get to 100 and let yourself gain a lot of the weight back.  Now you’re certain you’ll never be able to lose weight.

Tuesday Afternoon At McDonalds: Decide to lose 2 pounds whenever

You weigh 300 starting out and the goal is 298.  You lose 2 pounds the first week and are naturally encouraged to lose 3 more pounds.  Next week, done!  Now you’re feeling really good, having accomplished two motivation-based goals, and want to see if you can lose 5 more pounds to get to 290.  This trend continues into the third month when you sprain your ankle.  You have to rest for a while and even gain back some of the weight from before.

You recognize the setback and adjust the goal to lose 5 pounds from your current weight and accomplish it in 3 weeks.  This process continues and you end up accomplishing 23 small weight-loss goals during the year.  When you’re reflecting on the past year, you realize that you have lost 40 pounds and weigh 260!  You know that if you just keep this up, you’ll be right where you want to be in no time.  So you set your next goal – 255….


The reason that the small goal-setter continued on is that he did not have to keep re-motivating himself for the same goal.  This is tiring and extremely difficult to do, especially for lofty goals.  Instead, he motivated himself for goals he knew he could accomplish. Each of the 23 goal intervals on the way to 260 was met with a great feeling of success.  His motivation for the next goal fed off of his results for the previous goals (cannibal!).  He knew to expect success when he set a goal, and it excited him.

So be careful with motivation.  It is extremely powerful when used effectively and a major drain when it is not.  It is still good to set challenging goals, because the sense of accomplishment is greater.  Push yourself, but don’t overdo it.  If you push yourself too hard and fail once, you have the support of succeeding with 25 others.  If you make one huge goal a year and fail, it pounds your confidence into the ground.

Have you been using motivation correctly?  Let me know in the comments what you think.  I’ll leave you with this quote, which sums up 100 pounds (results) vs. 2 pounds (small change) very well.

“If you focus on results, you will never change. If you focus on change, you will get results.” ~Jack Dixon