Thursday, January 29, 2015

So Good They Can't Ignore You



The title of Cal Newport’s book, So Good They Can't Ignore You, is intriguing.  Most times people don’t believe in their abilities.  They don’t believe they qualify for the job promotions.  They don’t believe they have skills necessary to advance.  If you have a strong desire to accomplish your dreams, you need to remove the “self-doubt” obstacle.  You want to become the person “so good they can’t ignore you”.  You ask, “But how?”

As we continue to examine obstacles which stand between you and your dreams, let’s look at the definition of "obstacle":  a thing that blocks one’s way or prevents or hinders progress.  Is one of your major obstacles your income?  Previously you were asked, “Is your income too low for your needs?”  

When people have set their hearts on achieving something, their first response is “but I don’t have enough money to do that.” What does it take to invest in yourself in order to see positive financial results from the work you do; or the invention you develop; or an investment deal you undertake? 

The reason I am introducing you to Cal’s book is to inspire you to strive to reach your potential by showing that you may be well on your way to finding your passion and earning a higher income. You just don’t realize this. The interesting fact is Cal’s explanation clearly emphasizes we are not born with skills and talents.  These are developed over the years. 

Hard work is one of the secret ingredients to accomplishing your dreams.   Many success stories show this is true. When you pour yourself into your work, no matter how tedious your present job is, you will eventually work your way to a satisfying and fulfilling career.  You will be challenged to take on additional responsibilities in new areas and will be compensated for doing so.  

Bloom Where You're Planted

I know exactly what Cal Newport is referring to in his book.  In my high school yearbook, this little blurb was written about the plans I had for my future.

Travel consultant

Is what she wants to be?

The world is what Delores wants to see

With her high marks and charming laugh

She’ll be an asset to any staff.

I had my heart set on travelling yet I didn’t even come close to being a travel consultant or airline stewardess.  After a few short-lived jobs, I landed one with the credit union, the same credit union I work for today.  I would have never dreamt this would turn into a lifetime career.  As I weaved my way through our organization, hopping from branch-to-branch, job-to-job, taking education courses along the path, I finally landed my dream job as a financial planner.  Being a Certified Financial Planner gives me the opportunity to help people plan their financial futures.  It’s amazing how my love for math in high school and helping fellow students with this subject connected me to my present job.  I didn’t plan this from the beginning.

In his book, Cal Newport reveals, “Matching your job to a pre-existing passion does not matter.  Passion comes after you put in the hard work to become excellent at something valuable, not before. In other words, what you do for a living is much less important than how do it.”  I certainly can relate. The fact was I was a divorced single parent who needed a job to support my son and me.  One cannot be too fussy in this situation.  I was fortunate to have the job I did with the opportunities to advance as long as I was willing to learn.  Passion was developing as I worked.  Did I know it was happening? I can’t be certain.  All I knew was I enjoyed helping people which meshes well with what Zig Ziglar says, “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough people get what they want.”

What About You

Do you feel that you are ready for a change?  Are you willing to hop on the next train going somewhere different than where you presently are?  Honestly, it doesn’t have to be significant; minor changes allow you to experience new things. 

If your desire is to improve your income, then you may start with improving yourself.  I agree totally with experts like John C. Maxwell, who says, you have to invest in yourself.  You must be willing to take a chance.  Focus on something that connects with you in a defining way.  Dig deep into your work!  Look with fresh eyes for opportunities you may have been missing in your day-to-day life.  Look for opportunities to help others be their best because this is a positive reflection on you.  Being a team player shows your willingness to cooperate.  Initially there will always be steep learning curves in everything new that you try.  Plow through the difficult challenges of learning new skills and relying on others to help you.  The best part is you will become victorious and achieve your dreams because you will be “so good no one can ignore you”.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Does This Sound Like You?

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Juggling Life


Life is Hectic

Do you get the feeling we can spend forever discussing obstacles that stand in the way of our goals, dreams, and aspirations?  Here’s another one to consider. 

A few years ago, I asked my fellow colleagues to help me understand why the majority of people do not request a financial plan.  I expected their complete honesty to the following survey question.

I am not interested in a financial plan because:

q  My life is hectic, and I don’t have the time to complete the questionnaires or set-up an appointment to discuss my financial affairs.

q  I feel I have a good grasp on my finances and future goals.

q  I am working with an investment advisor and I feel their advice is sufficient.

q  I don’t want to face the unknown and am not prepared to make any changes.

q  I feel uncomfortable sharing my personal financial information with a staff member in our office.

The Number #1 answer was “My life is hectic.”  Conflicting work schedules with your spouse, running around with your children’s activities, and not even knowing what you want in life deters you from even scheduling a meeting with a financial planner.

Here’s the frightening part.  Mark Twain’s message stands out in this entire calamity:

 Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

 

Mark Twain didn’t exactly say or perhaps even think, “Develop a sound financial plan”; but if you read between the lines, he wanted you to experience everything you possibly could.  You have to love these action verbs: Explore. Dream Discover. Everything you do takes money.  To sail away from a safe harbor you may need money to purchase the boat!

We Say We Have No Time

Time is the one thing which is distributed equally to everyone.  You have the “same” twenty-four hours as the next person. How you spend your valuable time is worth noting.  You always think your time belongs to others but in essence you are the gatekeeper of your time. 

One major enemy to achieving goals is wasting time.  John Maxwell passed along this message in his monthly mentoring lesson, “We say we waste time, but that is impossible. We waste ourselves.”    Examine which time killers appear in your day to see if this is true. We often say, “We don’t have time” but do we really know how we spend our time?  How much time is spent on mediocre activities such as surfing the Internet, visiting on social media, and watching television?

In 1992, Alabama, an American band, released this popular country song, I’m in a Hurry.  The chorus reflects the lifestyle we live today. 

Oh, I’m in a hurry to get things done.

Oh, I rush and rush until life’s no fun.

All I really gotta do is live and die,

But I’m in a hurry and don’t know why.

Although most people can relate to being in a hurry, many probably don’t make changes to their lifestyles to incorporate the things they should do.  Is this true for you?

Another enemy of achieving our goals is procrastination.  Joyce Meyers, in her book, Making Good Habits Breaking Bad Habits, shared this insight.

“Procrastination is a thief. It steals our time, our potential, our self-esteem, our peace of mind.  It is like a lullaby that whispers, “Go to sleep; everything will be fine.”  But everything will not be fine if we put off doing what we need to do.  And the task isn’t going to get done by itself!  It’s not going anywhere.  Procrastination is very deceptive, and we can only conquer it by becoming what I call a “now” person.  Be aggressive when you know you need to something.  Don’t put it off and keep putting it off…. just do it!”

Listen and Learn

Robert J. McKain says it best, “The reason most goals are not achieved is that we spend our time doing second things first.”

I, too, examined how I was doing in this category.  Was I spending too much time doing things of less importance?  Blogging regularly is a priority on my list so I was looking for ways to better manage my time. I knew I needed to develop new habits to get projects completed. 

Whatever your BIG projects are, you may try “time blocking” to ensure you make time in your busy schedule to get things done.  “Time Blocking” is not a new concept but rather an effective method to stay on course.  Cal Newport shares a Deep Habit for planning every minute of your work day so every task is allotted specific and appropriate time periods.  I am certain Cal’s technique could also apply to your personal pursuits.   

We learn from one another.  People like Joyce Meyers, Cal Newport, and even the band, Alabama, experienced life lessons which inspired them to share their wisdom with us. Taking concepts and ideas from others’ experiences enrich our lives.  Naturally, you can’t implement “everything” but you can certainly take what you need and pass on the things you don’t.

Final Instructions

Information packed into this blog allows you to identify whether time is the obstacle standing in the way of your goals. Finding helpful resources allows you to conquer this obstacle.     

Here’s your challenge:

Dare to explore what’s working and what’s not working.       

Dare to exchange bad habits for good ones.

Dare to expect positive results from your valiant efforts.

The next time I ask the same survey question, your response may be different.  Your response may be, “When can I schedule an appointment?”

 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Waging War On Debt


 
Many obstacles may stand in your way of fulfilling your goals, dreams and aspirations.  Money may happen to be one of the obstacles.  If it is, you need to narrow the focus to whether the problems lies with you or your environment before you can attack the real issue.

            Do you spend too much money and save too little?

Do you pay too much in personal income taxes?

Is your income too low for your needs?

Do you have too much debt?

This week’s blog, Waging War on Debt, concentrates on attacking your debt.  This matter appears to affect more people than any other issues.  Can you imagine if your debt was gone?  This means money would not be gobbled up by interest charges.  Your loan payments would now be directed to savings for the important things on your dream list.  The feelings of anxiety and pressure of managing debt obligations would vanish. You would be more care-free.

Understand Who’s in Control

Do you control your money or does your money control you?  Do you feel overwhelmed with bill and loan payments?  Although we understand the necessity to pay for everyday conveniences, such as power and energy for equipping our homes, quite often it’s the loan payments we don’t need. One or two payments may be easy to handle.  Anything more than two payments suffocates your cash flow.  You may feel the weight of this debt on your shoulders.  What you want to do is make the load lighter in order to regain control.

Understand How You Arrived at this Point

The first step is to recognize how you got yourself into debt so that you never repeat the errors.  You may have heard Albert Einstein’s quote “insanity is doing the same over and over again and expecting different results.”  Don’t allow yourself to believe this won’t happen again and again. Even with a higher income, you can fall into the same kind of debt hole.

Second step is to determine how to get yourself out of debt. Often, changing your circumstances means changing your thoughts.  The book, The Secret, helps you realize that you attract what you want; but that you always have the power to attract what you don’t want without realizing it.  Change your thoughts and you are able to change your life.  Once you have accomplished this feat, the real work of finding appropriate ways to conquer your debt begins. Trimming your daily spending will be difficult as you look for extra cash to pay down your debt.  By making crucial sacrifices, you will then have an easier time accomplishing the third step.

Third step is to remember how you felt so you never experience those feelings of suffocation and being over-burdened. We live in a society where borrowing money is so easy especially for people with good credit scores matched with good annual income.   Lenders like you.  You need them when you want to borrow money. You have to exercise caution so you don’t fall into the trap of over-borrowing.

Look for the Right Solutions

Ideally, if you were going to attack your debt, what should you do? If only it was as easy as uttering the command, “Debt, be gone!” to solve all your debt problems.  Since this isn’t going to happen, let’s resort to taking advice from someone who has helped many.  Gail Vaz-Oxlade in her book, Debt Free Forever, dedicated a chapter specifically to Lose The Debt.  The article, Coping with a Debt Crisis, found at her website, mirrors the information shared in this chapter.

Since I am not in the habit of re-inventing the wheel, I often recommend Gail's strategies to anyone who is serious about becoming debt-free. Gail is a straight-shooter.  She says what you need to hear even though you may not like what she has to say about how you handle your money.  The fact is she speaks the truth. Her down-to-earth advice is a reminder that we have to live within our means and becoming debt-free will take hard work. 

Depending on your ability to borrow, the simplest solution would be to apply for a consolidation loan. Since this option is not readily available to everyone then you may have to put “Plan B” into effect and find ways to reduce the debt on your own. 

You can read about Gail’s strategy by clicking here if you seriously want to get out of debt. Her approach starts with creating a list of your debt, insisting you face reality about your obstacles.  Gail highly recommends not taking longer than three years to pay off your debt. Beyond this point, “Debt Fatigue” will set in because you’ve been in debt so long you can’t even imagine daylight anymore. 

This copy of Gail's Debt Worksheet was once available at her website.
 
Debt
Interest Rate (%)
Outstanding Balance ($)
Minimum Payments ($)
Money Interest ($)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
TOTAL
 
 
 
 

 
Take all the Advice You Can

You have an empire of resources.  It’s not enough to tell you what to do.  It’s important to tell you how to do these things.  Up until now the conversation has been about attacking your debt.  You will need other weapons in your back pocket to help attack the debt problem.  As I scoured helpful resources, Steve Pavlina’s blog about Self-Discipline: Acceptance, Willpower, Hard Work, Industry, and Persistence  struck a chord with me. Although Steve does not relate specifically to money management, he does point out that self-discipline will overcome any addiction.  Although you may not have considered over-spending an addiction but it is if you continue to dig yourself further into debt.


“Self-discipline is one of many personal development tools available to you. Of course it is not a panacea. Nevertheless, the problems which self-discipline can solve are important, and while there are other ways to solve these problems, self-discipline absolutely shreds them. Self-discipline can empower you to overcome any addiction or lose any amount of weight. It can wipe out procrastination, disorder, and ignorance. Within the domain of problems it can solve, self-discipline is simply unmatched. Moreover, it becomes a powerful teammate when combined with other tools like passion, goal-setting, and planning.”

 
Now it’s up to you to apply these tools and techniques to attack the obstacles that stand in your way.  With the right information and right amount of discipline, you can be unstoppable in your war on debt.  A quote which recently appeared on Facebook by Strength Sensei said, “If you’re not willing to learn, no one can help you.  If you’re determined to learn no one can stop you.”  You always have a choice.  What will yours be? 

 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Do You Have SMART Goals?



If you followed through with the challenge posed in last week’s blog, you will now have a list of your aspirations.  You may be asking, “Okay, now what?”

The next step is to transform your list into SMART goals.  SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound.  Although this unique process of turning aspirations into smart goals is unknown to many, it is not difficult to do. Quite often I have people wondering whether they are able to retire.  However, in order to answer their question, I need more details.  When do they expect their retirement to occur? What kind of income will they require?  Retirement is only one example of an aspiration that may be easily turned into a smart goal.  Other examples may be travelling or funding children’s educations.

These samples are taken from our CIFPs’ Financial Planning Practitioners’ Guide.  Notice how much more precise the SMART goal is than the dream.

Dream
SMART Goal
I want to retire comfortably.
I want to retire at age 60 with sufficient resources to be able to afford to spend the equivalent of $50,000 per year.
We would like a vacation property.
We would like to purchase a cabin, surrounded by a few acres, on Vancouver Island within the next five years. We will use it as a vacation property until we retire, at which time we plan to move into it permanently.
We want to prepare for our daughter’s future education.
We want to accumulate sufficient funds by the time our daughter turns 18 to be able to pay 50% of the cost of obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree at an out-of-province university for 4 years. We feel that our daughter should be responsible for the remaining costs.
We want to be protected in case Harry (the main breadwinner) dies.
In the event of Harry’s death, we want to be able to maintain our family’s current standard of living until the children are 19 years old, and until Mary’s (Harry’s wife) death. We would also like the children to receive a legacy of $50,000 upon their 19th birthday to use for education or starting a business.

Now it’s your turn to transform your list of aspirations.  Do they need to be tweaked to ensure they are SMART goals? If you require further help, click here about Personal Goal Setting at Mind Tools®.  

In addition to your financial goals, you may set goals in all important areas of your life (example: career, education, family.)  Even though your initial thought may be to improve your financial status, you may discover changing career or getting a job promotion by furthering your education leads to personal satisfaction as well as an increase in salary. You can see how your aspirations can be intertwined.  

Commitment to your goals, dreams and aspirations is a requirement for them to become reality. Since the new year has only just begun, stay focused.  It’s encouraging to know that Rome was not built in a day. This common phrase implies that you require patience as you work towards your destination. Now that you know what you want to accomplish and why it’s important to you, the next step will be to examine any problems and balancing opportunities. Henry Ford said, “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.”  Like I mentioned, stay focused as you work through the appropriate steps to achieving your dreams.
Six Main Steps of the Personal Financial Planning Process

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year’s Resolutions OUT–New Year’s Aspirations IN


 
New Year’s resolutions generally include typical “have-to-do” items. Many people have travelled down the same route, year after year, only to meet failure rather than success when attempting to follow through with their resolutions.  I did, too, until I discovered a more effective New Year’s ritual.  

Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of the book, Simple Abundance – A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, suggested that we write down our most private aspirations rather than resolutions. Perhaps the magic is in our approach.  Perhaps words like, “resolutions” and “goals” are too harsh, overwhelming, or even intimidating.   Aspirations, on the other hand, appear to breathe life into our lists.  Sarah begins her book with an entry for January 1:  A Transformative Year of Delight and Discovery.

“New Year’s Day.  A fresh start.  A new chapter in life waiting to be written.  New questions to be asked, embraced, and loved. Answers to be discovered and then lived in this transformative year of delight and self-discovery.
Today carve out a quiet interlude for yourself in which to dream, pen in hand.  Only dreams give birth to change. What are your hopes for the future as you reflect on the years that have passed?  Gradually, as you become curator of your own contentment, you will learn to embrace the gentle yearnings of your heart.  But this year, instead of resolutions, write down your most private aspirations. Those longings you have kept tucked away until the time seems right.  Trust that now is the time. Ask the questions. The Simple Abundance path brings confidence that the answers will come and we will discover – day by day – how to live them.
Talk a leap of faith and begin this wondrous new year by believing.  Believe in yourself. And believe that there is a loving Source – a Sower of Dreams – just waiting to be asked to help you make your dreams come true.”   


With this new information in hand, perhaps you are now better prepared to achieve your goals, dreams and aspirations.  The task won’t appear as daunting. Why don’t you give it a try?

Happy New Year!