Nuts: Friend or Foe? (While Trying to Lose Weight While Primal/Paleo)

As I’m working with a couple of people, plus my wife, I see some very common themes. The most common is trying to lose fat. With the summer nearly upon us, and all the potential for pool time, volleyball, barbecues, and time with friends, there’s the vanity side of things of wanting to look good. And there’s the health side of things about wanting to feel good. Thus starts (or restarts) people’s journey to ramp up for the year.

So they start cutting out processed food, eating more veggies, maybe some meat, good fats like coconut oil. Inevitably I get asked what to eat for snacks. Beyond beef jerkey, or maybe hard boiled eggs, nuts are the first thing people gravitate towards. I’ll be the first to admit I like nuts. I buy a huge ass jar of smokehouse flavored almonds at Costco once in awhile, and eat them by the handful. I like those bitter walnuts. Cashews are a gift from God. I like most nuts. Which is one of the reasons I am not at my ideal bodyfat.

Nuts have some health benefits, and taste good. There are some big problems with eating nuts, and if you are trying to lose weight, I’d highly recommend you cut them out or limit them a lot.

  1. They are very calorically dense. Most nuts are between 150 to 200 calories per ounce. If that is your ‘go to’ snack, it is so damn easy to over indulge. How big is an ounce? ounce of nuts
  2. They are high in Omega 6’s. Though they have many other good things going for them, most standard American diets (SAD) are already overweighted in the omega 6:3 ratio resulting in systematic inflamation. While primal/paleo with veggies, grass fed meat, no soy, and so forth tilt that ratio in the right direction, too many nuts can tilt it back.
  3. Large amounts of nuts are physically difficult to digest. Humans aren’t really built to digest large quantities of them. Ask an already damaged digestive system to handle large quantities, and you’ll get stress, stress creates cortisol. Cortisol (the stress hormone) wants you to hold onto your fat, thereby making it harder to lose.

Some people handle nuts better than others, but if you are having problems and the rest of your diet is pretty clean, and you’re exercising, sleeping well, and have fairly low stress, check out your nuts :) At a minimum, get a food scale and measure what an ounce looks like, bag them up for snacks rather than eating out of the container. Otherwise, you could be like me and kick nearly an entire wasabi flavored almond container in a single sitting (So dang good though!):

wasabi almonds

Bottom line: enjoy your nuts, use them as a side portion (on a salad or garnish) or have a MEASURED or WEIGHED ounce or three during the week if you’d like, but don’t use them as your ‘go to’ snack if you are trying to lose weight/fat. If you do, you’re likely sabatoging yourself. If you must eat nuts, get crackalackin’ and get them in a shell. If you’re like me, you’ll find cracking shells gets annoying fast, so you’ll eat less.

Check out the following resources for much better reasoning, science, and information (good and bad) about nuts than I could dream of providing you:

Mark’s Daily Apple – Nuts and Omega 6’s

VegSource’s Can’t Lose Weight? Could be the nuts.

Mark’s Daily Apple Definitive Guide to Nuts

Finally, in the vein of weight loss, here’s a few more MDA articles on the subject:

17 Possible Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Weight

9 more reasons you’re not losing weight

Celebrating the little things

Too often we tend to save up our positive emotional energy for the future big things. Things like the weekend, or a vacation, or a favorite event or concert. And just as frequently, this means we lose sight of the little things. We’re miserly in our affection and attention. We’re jumping in our mind one or two steps ahead. When we’re making breakfast, we’re thinking about the commute. When we’re on the commute we’re thinking about work. When we’re at work, we escape occasionally other ways. Make dinner. Get to practice. Get homework done. Eat your veggies. Take a shower. It’s overwhelming if we don’t just take things one step at a time and enjoy the moment of that step. If we just stay emotionally invested with good energy in as many of those tiny moments as possible, we’d all be happier. No reason to save up your happiness for a long weekend or anything. Live happiness every day – it’s there for the taking.

little-things-big-things

Staying mentally engaged in the moment uncovers many tiny daily treasures, and some bigger daily treasures, that often go unnoticed when our mind is living in the past or future. So as I hope you do as well, I’ve been trying to stay present more often, and am learning to find positive energy and true happiness in the little daily things we take for granted. For example, my celebrations of today that made me happy and brought joy to me (and in some instances to others):

  • I had purchased some cheap jello pudding cups for lunches – and watching LoudBoy go bananas for them (“This is probably the best lunch I ever had!!!!”) was worth the $0.25 price of admission.
  • Laughed with the kids as the rain and wind almost blew us away while we waited for the bus while we were trying to avoid stepping on all the worms
  • Started listening to a new audiobook on salesmanship, which will help as I grow into my new job, while sipping on a thermos of homemade coffee (black) on the short work commute
  • Felt real pleasure with the comradeship and respect of my coworkers and boss despite my short time on board. Good energy here.
  • Enjoyed a lunchtime run, feeling healthy (and slow) as I try to get into summer shape
  • Grilled some brats for the first time this year for dinner
  • Had some special dog time tonight, as Dum Dum curled up by my feet while I caught up on my guilty pleasure of reading my favorite magazines
  • Seven year old LoudBoy, who isn’t always as affectionate towards me as his mom, was very kissy tonight with me. I’m not sure how much longer he will be like that, so tonight I savored the moment of cuteness. Then he said we were the best parents ever. Great moments!

Life isn’t always easy and we all have stresses that can bring us down if we focus on them. I could have easily taken every one of those bullets above and made it a negative with the opposite mindset. I could have dwelled on the fact my wife Holly was still had residual pain from her recent surgery, or annoyed that my commute has idiot drivers, or gotten on the kids’ asses about not putting away laundry or getting their things ready for their after school sports. But I just stayed in the moment and both generated positive energy, and saw it reflected back my way. Much better day for soaking that in, something we all likely need to stay on top of. Thus yoga or meditation or focusing or calming activities can help a lot. For happiness, enjoy those little things as much as you can.

This week, I hope to wrap up some posts on:

  • nuts and weight loss,
  • my thoughts on Red Pill and results after 3+ years of blogging and bringing my wife into the fold (my first of 78 posts that were much raunchier at the now defunct  losingbetamarriedguy.blogspot.com was put up on April 3, 2012 – it wasn’t until August 2012 that I let my wife know and brought her on board),
  • bang for the buck exercises and home workout plan with just a few things like dumbells or barbells – to get ready for summer (only about a month to Memorial Day)

Peace!

Be Thrifty to Increase Wealth

Increasing wealth, or net worth, is fairly simple on the surface: increase savings. Most workings stiffs like me can do this by either increasing income or decreasing expenses (or both). When most people get a raise, or promotion, or get an inheritance, they simply raise their standard of living. Maybe move to a bigger house. Get nicer cars. Go on fancier vacations. IPads for Everyone! Instead of seeking out that additional 1% or 2% that could go into savings.

SAVE

I’m not going to write about increasing income, but more about how to set up some thrifty ideas that can help with increasing that savings rate just a little more.

1) First, look at your budget, and see where concessions can be made. Maybe you go out to eat twice a week. Maybe you’re paying 5% interest still on a home mortgage. Maybe you still have cable. Maybe you’re an Amazon book hound. Then, roll that all up and make it a goal to save $X amount more per month.

2) After you’ve committed to saving that much more per month, set up an outside account. We personally use Capital One 360 (formerly ING), an on-line account that pays as of 2015, 0.75%. There are other companies that pay more, but getting an outside account away from your regular checking/savings bricks and mortar bank is my strong recommendation. Then, set up an automatic transfer into your new on-line account. Basically, the money is gone before you even see it. We set ours to correspond with pay days. The good thing about this initially during this trial run is that if you end up too aggressive, you’ve still got the money to transfer back to bricks and mortar if you run into trouble. But setting it and forgetting it is the way to go.

3) Since you are now forced to live on less money, you can revisit Item 1 above. Here are some things I would recommend implementing (right out of my book):

  • Cut Cable (and get an antenna) – Costs are so crazy for cable, and besides the incessant consumer advertising that encourages even more spending, it is a major time sink. For the price of $8 a month, Netflix or Hulu or other services can provide more entertainment than you can shake a stick at. And get an indoor antenna ($40 at Amazon, we have two of these highly rated Leaf 30’s and are very happy with them) for your network television. A handful of times a year, if you’re a sports fan, you will find yourself needing cable for NCAA basketball or maybe Monday Night Football, but that’s a small price to pay for the huge reduction in costs from cable.
  • Use the library – some of your taxes likely go to supporting your local library system. Many are part of a conglomerate teamed together to swap books, CDs, DVDs, Audiobooks, magazines, video games, and even Blu Rays between libraries. We go nuts at the library and if we had to buy or even rent all the multimedia I check out for free there every year, it would cost well above $1,000. It’s a great way to learn about nearly anything for free (less any overdue fees). So get down there and get yourself a card, learn how to use the reservation system, and save some dough.
  • Coffee or booze – Doing it at home will save you bunches. Even gas station coffee at a $1.19 a day adds up to nearly $900 a year if you and your spouse both have a caffeine addiction like me and Holly do. A $9 two-pound bag of Starbucks roasted Costco coffee lasts us probably close to a month, saving us a difference of $775 a year. Booze too has incredible markup at the bar or restaurant. If you want to imbibe, you are much better doing it on your own or choosing to refrain to some extent in social situations if you are money concious.
  • Drink water, tap that is: Instead of soft drinks, bring your water bottle to work and fill it up as often as you need to. Not only is it healthier, but it is free. And tap water is usually fine, so don’t get suckered into paying for water when it is free.
  • Bring your own lunch – If you eat out for lunch, start bringing in your own. Make it the night before, or make larger dinners so you have leftovers. The cost savings can be signficant. If there’s a $4 per meal difference between homemade versus purchased lunch, over a course of a 50 week work year, that’s a $1,000.
  • Cut your own hair – yes, we make enough money for this not to be an issue, but I still cut my own hair. It’s faster, easier, and free (with a paid off clippers). This helps balance my wife’s hair styling/coloring (to keep the gray out, and her looking hot to me), which can be expensive. Figure with tip, I’m at least saving a few hundred dollars a year (since I wouldn’t go to Great Clips but to an actual stylist when I would have my hair cut in the past).
  • Thrift stores, your friend – It takes some time, but you can often find really nice, gently warn or even new clothes at thrift stores. About half of Holly and my wardrobe is used I would estimate. I found soccer cleats for Birdsnest (who continues to grow like a weed) for $2.25 that were in great shape. It’s go-to shopping when we need wardrobe updates, art, furniture, or board games.
  • Cell Phone – We are fortunate in that both my wife and I get at least partial reimbursement for our phones since we’re expected to use them for work, but I can’t imagine having to pay for full price of smart phone family plan without that. While I’m not an affiliate (yet), you can use some cool ways to save TONS of money on this by using more of a wireless system (if using them primarily at home or work) that does use cellular when needed. Republic Wireless for example is one way, charging $10/month for unlimited talk/text over wireless and cell, and unlimited data over wifi. I hope to write more about this another time, but something to consider if you’re evaluating budget items.

Those are a few of the frugal things I recommend. In addition, the bigger things like refinancing the house (which we did this year, saving us about $3,600 per year in the short term, and paying MUCH less interest in the long term) and shopping for car insurance (something we’re in the process of doing now, which will save us about $600 per year) also add up.

In general, we try to balance living now and saving for the future. We use a lot of free resources available to us (local parks, local free pool, home, family or neighbor time instead of paid activities and birthday parties). Our house is the smallest on the block (at a nice sized 2,300 SF, perfect without being wasteful). We pay any car purchases off quickly (mine was paid in 18 months, Holly’s new minivan will be 3 years or sooner, which isn’t cash but the best we can do, and at 0.9% financing is still a smart decision), then drive them for 10+ years. Even the sports or activities the kids and us are into are evaluated by their cost. For example, instead of paying for gym membership, we built our own gym (and has been paid off for years now). Instead of paying $200 per session per kid for swim team (which the kids really liked, but weren’t naturally talented at), we tried other sports that cost maybe 20% of that, and the kids love as much. We’ve traded services with others to get them free piano lessons. We co-op flexible work hours with two other neighbor families with kids similar in age to us to swap afterschool care and reduce all our expenses.

So you look at all of the above, and try to get an estimate on what that means to your bottom line, and sock that found money away to that new separate account automatically. What you end up doing with it is a conversation for another day. We’ve used this method to build a 3-month emergency fund, vacation fund, car fund, and investing fund. When we have enough in the investing fund, it can go toward a Roth IRA, or even regular investing account.

No matter if you’re well off or not, there’s likely fat in your budget. To build wealth faster, find where you can cut the fat that doesn’t impact life happiness. That’s an individual thing, and often compromises will be made between husband, wife, and kids, which is typical between enjoying today and saving for tomorrow. But when you do find savings somewhere, make sure you set yourself up to actual save that money, and not just squander it on something else.  Good luck in reaching your goals!

Exhale

Wow, it’s been a while since I last posted. Things have been exciting around here. First, I’m an Alumni of Wisconsin, so enjoying the run they went on with friends has been most outstanding and as a result I’ve spent way more time than I like to admit following the team through the last couple weeks. Our friends and next door neighbor went to the championship game and we enjoyed all those last games with close friends. Amazing experience.

Second, this was my first week at my new position, though at a past employer where I was a partial owner in (but divested when I left last time). My responsibilities are expansive and I forgot how mentally and physically tired you get starting out in a new position. I was a wet rag every day this week and my head was spinning. Though still in the honeymoon phase, I can tell I’ll be way happier here and with better energy than at my last place. I had a subcontractor from my old job call me today about old issues that seemed to never go away (he hadn’t yet gotten word I’d moved on) and I was just happy that stuff was behind me. I expressed solidarity in his plight, and was always an advocate. I left things in good shape in my wake, but it has been like a weight has been lifted and I am simply much happier now, and expect to be even after the honeymoon period ends.

With the spring comes new challenges and opportunities. I’ve done a few podcasts with friends new and old (sorry, not giving that info away at this time), and it has been good fun despite us not really knowing what we’re doing. With that came reconnection with former friends I hadn’t talked to in 20 years. Good times as we caught back up. I’ll also be coaching my 7 year old’s soccer team this spring, and am continuing to Life Coach on the side. We set up a basketball hoop in our driveway, so there are many impromptu games with the kids and though I suck at all things basketball, life is good when you have a go-to outside activity.

Holly and I are enjoying some good quality time prior to her surgery next week. Good communication and sexy times, since in less than a week she’ll be on ice for a couple of weeks while she recovers. Not a huge deal when you’ve been together as long as we have, but taking advantage of the opportunity beforehand though.

So exhaling here and coming back up for air. I’ll be honest in that I need to get back into a rhythm with the new job and new routine. I need to get back to exercising (took this week off), to eating better (Easter candy and taking advantage of my “vacation” last week while imbibing in basketball), to reading more, to writing more. I certainly took advantage of slow times and boredom in my last job to do some blogging at times, and I won’t be able to do that now. In fact, there’s even a policy against it. Since it is a firm I hope to become owner in again in the future, and maybe even wrap up whatever working career is still in me, I plan to play it pretty straight.

So I hope to get back in the mix again rapping about stupid shit. My reconnections with my old friends have already lead to some funny and sad stories I may be able to get into here, and I have some other topic ideas floating around that brain of mine.

So with that, I’ll leave you this Friday afternoon with some yoga pants, a gift for all men and a topic we discussed in our podcast that will remain semi-private for the time being. Peace.

yogapants

Sex in Marriage, or Lackthereof

One of the continuous things I see is married dudes being dissatisfied with their sex lives. If that’s you take what little comfort you can in knowing that it’s very common. You can find many forums out there on the topic, or articles written:

There’s also been a million posts on the subject, a recent good read is Rational Male’s Wives and Lovers post. As an example, This post at r/DeadBedrooms is all too common. Both husband and wife share responsibility for sex, and likely both sides need to raise their game. However, as the man, you need to lead to get there. It may or may not happen, but if you’re reading this blog, you likely know you can only control your actions, so let’s flesh out a few things to see if it can help your situation.

There’s a myriad of reasons why sexy times are not happening  including medication, birth control, health issues, stress, kids, sleep quality, self-confidence, electronic devices, communication, attention, and general attraction issues (among likely dozens more). If you and your partner are both generally healthy, and can rule out medication (many antidepressants are known libido killers) then it starts to behoove you men out there to both look further and start behaving differently. Don’t rule out birth control influencing the hormones as well (see this post I did a while back on the topic). But assuming BC is a neutral issue, here are where I see the biggest behavior issues that impact sex lives. I’ve written about some of these in this similar post.

  • Not going to bed at the same time (i.e. dude in man cave watching sports, wife goes to bed)
  • Not initiating (can’t have sex if you don’t try)
  • Not making QUALITY time to spend together without kids (results in lost connection, roommate feel. Note: quality time isn’t spent in front of TV or iPad, but actually interacting and engaging)
  • Not regularly touching, hugging, kissing (not a peck in the morning, but an opened mouth kiss, this physical connection is very important)
  • Not engaging her mind
  • BIG lack of dopamine excitement (i.e. your spouse is bored by you, despite what a good man you are. Flirt a little. Be playful and sexual. Get out of your routine)
  • Not looking as good as you could (if you’re 100# overweight, attraction is likely an issue)
  • Big elephants (drinking/drugs, some major trust issues where you’ve messed up big)
  • Too much TV or electronic devices that suck time
  • The man is not seen as the family leader, but as an extra child to care for

I’m a big fan of Athol Kay’s Primer as far as getting to an improved sex life, and cover that topic in my own way in my book as well. The bottom line is many men are trying to logic and nice their way into a better sex life, when many need to improve themselves in some area and most importantly start being the cocky, funny bad boy more often. You HAVE to find ways to get out of the boring married couple life and manufacture some dopamine in your spouse. That’s the hormone that keeps things exciting. And that’s the thing that is missing in many, many, many marriages and keeping men especially from getting the sex life they want.

Biologically we want sex. A lot. And often we don’t really want to work for it. We get revved up quickly. See your wife coming out of the shower? Boner. See your wife getting her thong on while she’s getting ready for work? Boner. That’s us. Most of us are lazy and often don’t consider that our wife works differently. We would hope she’d be DTF everytime we want, but we forget they aren’t wired like that. We need to engage their mind, and be playful and romantic yet in charge. It’s a dance that we often forget about after 5, 10, 15, or 20 years of marriage.

To boil things down, here are some recommendations that I feel are universal:

  1. Take care of yourself. Get strong, get fit, stop smoking, look as good as you can. Get mentally calm and happy through meditation or some other way.
  2. Find a passion or hobby in your life outside of your family. Fulfillment brings positive energy to you, which you then bring back to your wife and kids.
  3. Be a leader in your house, use the positive energy to have fun and direct the ship.
  4. Start engaging your wife more through kisses, touching, talking. Find out her love language and reconnect. Make her look at you differently and do whatever you can to spark that dopamine in her again. Stop accepting the roommate role as par for the course and she likely will as well.
  5. Initiate, initiate, initiate. Warm her up, get her laughing, get her turned on. Take what she gives you, even boring sex. Get in the habit of connecting as a couple and do your best to get past the rejection and stay positive.
  6. Turn off the electronic devices/TV and go up to bed earlier and just hang out together. Make this a habit and watch your connections with each other improve.

Obviously, those are complex things with many variations and themes. Even if you do these perfectly, there is no guarantee of success translating in the bedroom, though your life will still be better. The other person is always a wild card. But if you step up your game, make small steps each day to live the life you want and be the man (or woman) you want to be, your sex life hopefully will fall into place as well. Hopefully you have a partner who feels the same way; that married life isn’t a life without quality sex in frequent enough quantity.

Laying Down the Law, Sometimes it’s Needed

Another longish, rambler today.

Laying down the law, never pleasant whether you’re the layee or the layer. People have different approaches to situations, and mistakes or misunderstandings are common when the person who you are dealing with tackles life or work tasks differently than you would. Or sometimes they are simply lazy. When pervasive or constant disregard or disrespect for the other party is common, sometimes Laying Down the Law is necessary. Sometimes it needs to be done for the betterment of the whole. And in most instances, the person getting the verbal notice knows full damn well they aren’t doing what they should be doing. They may get defensive or try to flip the script, but you have to stick to your guns and stay on task. You need to be respectful and like a rock in the face of drama. It will likely be unpleasant, but it sets the tone for what you’ll accept, and what you won’t, and hence very important no matter what your relationship.

bigBossMan

I’ve had to get out the stick (instead of the carrot) for staff at work. Bring them into my office, tell them they aren’t performing to expectations and they better get their act together, that type of thing. Not pleasant for me. Very unpleasant for them. But you know what? In every case they know they aren’t performing, and it at least makes things crystal clear on what those expectations are. They may take it pretty hard. I had one dude take the afternoon off after I pretty stoically told him the situation much to his chagrin. I’ve had employees nearly cry as we’ve conversed about tough situations and performance reviews. Ugh. Professional conduct throughout, but if these people had done what they were supposed to do, we never would have had these conversations.

For our children, those little midget crazy people we share our lives with, laying down the law is absolutely necessary on a regular basis. I watched a neighbor and friend warn his kid about 8 times to stop doing something, and still let him do it. Afterward, like an asshole, I asked him if they gave his kids timeouts. “Yes” he said, but he didn’t want to when people are over. Fuck. That. Lay down the law with your kids or they will walk all over you. Shit, I discipline other people’s kids. In front of  their parents, and they don’t say shit. They support my timeouts and punishments. This Post is about 2.5 years old but supports my point I’ve written about before: Red Pill Dad: Disher of Discipline. If you want kids to do something, you sometimes need to lay out the cause-effect relationship of their actions. It’s part of growing up. This Post (good article for those that have a problem with talk back and kids not listening- as long as you follow through) talks about it, and recommends a timer. A black-and-white cause and effect for their actions:

When either parent wanted something to be accomplished, they were to ask Abraham to do it within a certain time frame. That could be “before your sitcom begins,” “after dinner and before you begin to use any electricity,” or better yet, “before the timer buzzes.” If the kid began to argue, they were to ignore his complaints, set the timer, and walk away. If he accomplished the task on time, reasonably correctly, and without a bunch of grumping and griping, life would move on. If he didn’t, then he would lose out on a privilege or receive a “bad point” or other negative consequence. No ifs, ands, or buts . . . just a consequence for not doing as told when told.

My two nephews are staying with us this week while my brother-in-law and his wife are in Sexico. Having two extra crazies in the house raises the insanity level since the cousins feed off each others’ energy and loudness drawing LoudBoy into the fray. The older one is a really nice kid, but my youngest nephew is a little shit. Always has been, with blatant disrespect. My father-in-law refuses to watch them anymore because of his behavior. What’s interesting is that in general they behave much better here. We don’t coddle them, make them help with chores (laundry, making their lunch, cleaning up), and set clear expectations and consequences. Young nephew has been in about a dozen timeouts in the first few days, but has since listened and behaved. Funny how that is. Their parents are all bark and no bite, while I set clear expectations and ALWAYS follow through on my warnings.

Now comes the most complex of the Law Laydowns – the spouse. Your relationship with this best friend/lover/ roommate/ co-parent/ coworker is very complex. But shit, if your spouse sucks ass at something hard core or is just plain lazy, you still have to lay down the law. Now, I must put a caveat on this. First, is your spouse contributing in other equal but different ways to the overall well being of the house, but doesn’t cook, clean, or do laundry as often as you, some slack needs to be cut. I’ve talked a lot here about my own situation. Holly and I are equal earners, but view chores differently. We’ve found a way that works for us, and because I recognize her contributions in areas I wouldn’t touch (big organization, decluttering, and major projects) I’m ok with her lack of contribution on the day-to-day cleaning that I need to have in order to stay sane (my parents are hoarders, my intolerance of clutter is somewhat high).

Before you approach your spouse on whatever you need to bring to their attention (too much spending, too much drinking, too much time on video games, getting their health in order, not enough attention to you, too much time spent staring at electronic devices instead of having sexy time, whatever), take a moment to put yourself in their shoes. Often people just get into a pattern of coasting and slowly make their way to an unhealthy condition. While they’re likely aware of their behavior, they currently don’t see any consequences from it, so like Newton’s First Law of Motion, if left unchecked they’ll continue doing it. The purpose is not to berate them or shame them, but to bring attention to their behaviors and the effect it has. Think of it more like an intervention, so you need to handle it with tact, but make the expectations known. Don’t make threats, but be prepared to lay out the consequences if things don’t improve. You may want to revisit my How to Fight with Your Spouse post as well.

This will be uncomfortable, and they’ll likely get defensive and start picking on your behaviors as well. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since there are likely behaviors you have which need improving as well, so if both sides raise their game a little, theoretically the family unit as a whole should be better. Too often, we let our spouse get away with behaviors we would call out from other people due to the conflict, the potential for fighting, or simply fear (I have seen men literally afraid to confront their wives). While this advice applies to both men and women, the supplicative husband is usually the one who has the harder time Laying Down the Law. Again, the purpose is to bring awareness and accountability to behaviors that hopefully help with a common goal (better health, more quality time together, cleaner house, better sex life, better financial situation). And framed in that way, it’s a more palatable way to introduce a bitter pill.

So with all that, what is the takeaway? Whether with your co-workers, friends, kids, family, or spouse, if you aren’t seeing behaviors that are in line with your expectations, you need to bring attention and awareness to those behaviors and set expectations for change along with potential consequences. Prepare to be uncomfortable and for the other person to get defensive and even angry, but with tact and the right approach, hopefully you’ll see the response you desire. Have confidence, and take action. You only live once, so no need to live with not-awesome behavior that sucks life out of you. Good look!

Invisible Man

No, not the Ralph Ellison book Invisible Man (which is a must read), but simply being ignored. And I’m not getting into the whole Beta men who are invisible to women thing either, that’s a whole nother topic. No, I’m talking about leaving job and how you become invisible.

Today is my last day at a company I’ve worked at for about 4.5 years. Several people here I’ve worked with for 10 years total, counting a previous employer. When you give your notice, and if you’re lucky enough to work out your two weeks, you end up being mostly ignored. It’s sort of like you died. People refer to you in the past tense. They don’t want to catch what you have, and are already looking ahead to life without you. It’s very weird.

When leaving a firm, like leaving a girlfriend, you try to leave with your head held high and leave them in as good of shape as you can. No reason to have collateral damage or burn bridges. Get your house in order, transition all your work, and walk out the door. That’s how I took care of my previous employment leave, and look, that’s where I’m going back to work at.

It’s been no secret this job has resulted in a lot of stress over the last couple of years, and the viability is currently tenuous at best. There were layoffs last week, and I certainly wouldn’t be immune to that as my workload is very light right now. So despite a few mixed feelings, I’m happy to be headed to a new opportunity and feel the timing is right as well. So punching my last few hours here, cleaning out my desk, doing my timesheet, and then I’m out of here.

 

Have a good weekend all, I’ll feel light as a feather next week (not working) before heading into some new responsibilities and a new adventure (including now coaching my kid’s soccer team – another new one for me). Adventure is Out There! (Don’t be afraid to chase it! :)

adventure

 

Tips on Setting Goals, Getting to Where You Want to Be

I would bet that if you gathered 10 random people and ask them what their goals are in life, right now, you would get mostly hems, haws, and blank stares. Or if you do get an answer, it would be very generic like: “spend more time with my kids,” or “lose weight.” That’s not a goal, but a dream, or wish. If wishes were fishes, the sea would be full.

When talking with people; clients, neighbors, friends, even my wife and sometimes me, if you ask them they just don’t know. They haven’t challenged themselves to define it in concrete terms. Hence, they get less than excellent results. These people may generally be doing pretty well on things like diet, exercise, life balance, even happiness, and that may be good enough. But whenever I’ve been in this spot, without a beacon or goal, I’ve always felt a little listless. Without purpose I’ve felt lost.

ship without a rudder

While I wouldn’t expect you to have an answer for “What is my purpose in life?” that is something that should be in the back of your mind as you figure out yourself. I’ve pondered this larger question for some time over the last few years, and for me, I’ve boiled this big question down to a couple of guiding principles for right now: Helping Others Accomplish Their Goals and Being a Good Steward to the Environment. These have unknowingly been guiding me my entire life, and with that in mind at my forefront, help me to establish my smaller goals. 

Don’t despair if you haven’t figured out who you want to be when you grow up. I’ve heard this phrase so many times over the last few years. Being a corporate drone and making money for someone else often leaves us feeling unfulfilled, hence we are looking for things that make our spirit sing. If we don’t get that from our career, we carve out fulfillment through other ways. Volunteering. Our children. Being healthy. Cooking. Whether helping the world, or helping ourselves, being better and shooting for greater things is healthy for our soul.

So how do you establish even small goals? You may not have pondered “What do I want my life to look like in 5 years [or 3 years, or even 3 months]?” but you should. What do you want to look like? What skills do you want to learn (language, sport, music, dog training, how to start a business, what?)? This may be tough, starting out it will be somewhat shapeless, like trying to catch fog. But when you start to think about what makes you happy, what may drive you to feel better about yourself, then you can start to establish goals.

I am a supervisor at work, and in addition to those I work with coaching on the site, I work with friends, my kids, and staff on helping them establish goals. I’ve had training in this area using the SMART Goals program. If you haven’t seen this before (I believe I’ve touched on this before), SMART stands for:

  • Specific – what do you want to accomplish? Why? It may be something like: I want to lose weight so I can look good in a swimsuit this summer. I will do this by healthier eating and regular exercise.
  • Measurable – How much, how many? This could be pounds, or chords on a guitar, or new healthy dishes, or a class enrollment with the gaining of new skills.
  • Achievable – I prefer to get people achieving early wins to get the ball rolling, so establishing a bigger goal like Lose 25 Pounds is great, but break it down even smaller – like “I will lose 1 pound a week average over 25 weeks” is more achievable. Be realistic with your time constraints, life obligations, and finances. You may not dig out of credit card debt this year, but if you set monthly goals on chipping away and making sacrifices t reach this priority, you’ll make it easier on yourself mentally.
  • Relevant - Does this improve my life or fall under my bigger umbrella of life purpose? Is this the right time to pursue this, or would I be better off completing other goals? Athol Kay has a red light, yellow light, green light evaluation of your various life segments. If you are 100# overweight but also want to save an extra $100 a month by spending 20 hours a week on a side hustle what do you think is a better use of time to achieve maximum life satisfaction if you could only choose one?
  • Time Sensitive – If you don’t have an end goal on when this is to occur, you’ll never get there. How can you break down a goal into bite sized quantifiable pieces if the finish line isn’t there? The answer is you can’t. You’ll keep kicking this to the future indefinitely.

Once you have your goal defined, WRITE IT DOWN! Then tell someone who will hold you accountable or will help you succeed, then put up the goal/list somewhere where you can see it – the fridge, the mirror in the bathroom, in your car or at your desk. Make a Vision Board. Then get the equipment, classes, CDs, knowledge, videos, books, personal training, knowledge, bank accounts set up, whatever that will put in the place to succeed. Make a calendar with your goals written down, and “X” off the days you succeed. Celebrate the small successes and stack wins on top of wins.

If you’re like me, getting from springtime body to summertime body is a goal. I’m choosing to run twice a week, am on Week 4 of a Hatch Squat Cycle (it is nice to have a program to follow for weights or exercise rather than noodle around on your own), am doing other weight training along with short conditioning, and am intermittent fasting and eating paleoish with no drinking 5 days a week. My goal is to lose 10 lbs of fat by June 15 while maintaining my muscle mass and hitting my squat numbers. While I’m also working on a few other goals in the background, like being more focused in my own relationships and locking up the phone at night (a trap many of us have fallen into over the last couple years I am guessing). But I’m aware that my plate is pretty full and there is only so much attention, focus, and energy to go around.

But setting goals are motivating. They make you feel like you’re actually moving rather than floating through life. Spring is a time for rejuvenation and cleaning. Take the time to do this in your life as well. If something is an anchor to your happiness or well being, figure out why and set a goal to rid yourself of that energy vampire.

And finally, since these smaller goals are important for happiness, finding or searching out your purpose can be something that has the potential to be quantum leap. Plus I like Venn Diagrams:

Life Purpose

venn-diagram

 

 

Making runs in life

I’m not a huge college basketball fan until March Madness hits and then it becomes a centerpiece as I get together with old friends  and we have some beers and wings, and talk smart rooting for our brackets and Alma maters. It’s a tradition. Anyway, one thing I love about these games is the runs that are made on a microcosmic and macrocosmic scale. What I mean is teams will make big point runs in a game (10-0, 15-2) to blow it open. But then they’ll go cold, and the other team will come roaring back. Very exciting. On the bigger scale, you have teams that go on runs through the tournament, making those smaller runs in games to pull ahead for the win, and stacking wins on top of wins.

Remember the run this guy made a few years back?

Remember the run this guy made a few years back?

Life is like that too. You may have long stretches of grinding (lead changes, ties, staying even – that is, things are steady, not much excitement) and then maybe things go south and life runs on you – a job loss, miscarriage, bankruptcy, death in the family. But then your team goes on a run – lots of excitement in short time frames, making positive moves that you hope will set you up for a big winning streak.

When you find yourself in one of those runs, you have to stay strong and not flinch. It’s easy to lay back and your haunches and not keep attacking your opponents or stop trying to keep catching lighting in a bottle. That is, I think, what makes people successful, versus those that get complacent. It’s not easy to keep the pedal on the medal and not sit back the fruits of your labors, but it is the accelerant to continue that propel winners forward.

We’ve had both kind of runs this year already, but the few months have been runs of various sorts and the last week or so things are roaring:

  • Several job interviews starting in December where you have soaring hopes and crushing losses when you just miss the position you were hoping to land
  • News of another hip surgery for Holly coming in April
  • Grandfather died
  • Starting officially coaching a few folks, which is exciting and brings positive energy, but certainly takes some time out of my other obligations
  • My mother-in-law’s mental health issues have reared their ugly head again, making Holly and her brothers somewhat miserable
  • Working through yet another interview and then dealing with the stress of negotiating an offer that is worthwhile
  • Giving notice and quitting a job, stressful as well for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is changing insurance just before a surgery.
  • My wife finally decided to pull a trigger on a minivan, which meant the stress of trying to sell her car that as Captain I took care of (and made nearly $2,000 more than trade-in price) – which happened yesterday. Smooth transaction but still, on top of the job change was something to pile on- plus the whole purchase a new car deal. On the plus side, we’re gonna “break in” the minivan this weekend if you know what I mean (wink! It was my wife’s idea, believe it or not. Love that woman)
  • After we talked about our Sexcation (edited of course) with family and friends, my brother-in-law and his wife couldn’t sign up fast enough for a resort trip of their own. The plan was to have their kids stay with my MIL, but since she’s gone off the reservation recently, they are staying with us that week (while they’re on spring break). It ends up working out well since I’m officially between jobs that week, but will add a fun, yet crazy, dynamic at our house.

At the end of the jig-jag line that resembles the stock market, all signs are pointing up. Since the end of 2014 to now, our household gross W-2 income has increased about $10,000 , we received annual bonuses for 2014 which were another 4% of our salaries, I’ll be moving out a job that has been a major life drain for awhile and into one with great potential (and is a known commodity), Holly’s hip will get repaired and won’t be in pain, and in general things are on the upswing with the weather improving and outside time increasing. Everyone is happier these days, which propagates even more positive energy.

It would have been easy to extend some of this stuff out, to not try and compact so much stuff in a short time, in some instances to keep making excuses into the future, but why not keep shooting if you’re feeling it? We’re stacking years upon years of small improvements and when we look back, we can barely remember how we began our journey together – dumpster diving for furniture and boxes to set my 13″ television on as we slept on an air mattress on the floor. Remembering to have gratitude for all you have and celebrating your runs (no matter how small they are) is one of the important keys to happiness.

Hope you have your own winning runs this spring season and start to stack successes in preparation for the rest of the year, and the rest of your life. Now, I’m off to watch some upsets and buzzer beaters with some old friends. Peace!

 

The Art of Salary Negotiation (incl. our story), Plus a Milestone

First, I just noticed the last post was my 500th. I’ve slowed down a little recently, but still, I’m guessing that 90% of bloggers never get close to 500 posts before shutting it down and going to the next shiny object. So, anyways I got that going for me, which is nice…Total Conciousness

I’m not a natural at negotiating, but I still do fairly well. When my wife and I have bought cars together, I’m the natural “bad cop” and am seriously ready to walk when things aren’t venturing into the specific territory where I want to go. So yeah, not as bad as I may put myself out to be. But still, for me, it’s always a somewhat painful and stressful process. Patience and fortitude are key to a good negotiator. So let’s talk about negotiation to maximize your livelihood.

You want a new job. You apply for those that fit. One, or more, call you back. You interview. You impress. You get a  job offer. Maybe it’s even your dream job, or at least your dream job right now. Life should be great, right? All you have to do is say yes. Maybe you are unemployed. Maybe you are underemployed. Maybe you hate your job so fucking much you can barely stand another day. Maybe you’re just seeing what is out there. No matter what you spot in life you are in, you shouldn’t just take the first offer. It’s a dance. A stressful dance, but one that could make a big difference in your future. If you take a lower salary now, it often makes it easier for future employers to bump you up, but keep you lower than others since you’re starting lower.

I’m just coming out of this negotiating experience, so it’s obviously fresh in my mind. But more on that later. This post is something I wish I had read when I was 22 or 25 years old.

negotiate cat

Ok, what do you do?

  1. First, say “THANK YOU!” They’ve offered you a chance for something new. Maybe it is a dream job, or maybe a shit job, but they’ve offered you something new and some new experiences, which no matter what is different than what you’re doing now. And that’s why you interviewed in the first place.
  2. Remember that the interview process is a two-way street and if it’s not a great fit for what you want, don’t feel pressured to take it because your other options are limited. Due your own due dilligence. Check out sites like GlassDoor to get a feel for the culture (one I’ve used a lot in filtering potential fits or not on the personal side of things – what they don’t put into the posting). Out of the frying pan, into the fire as they say. Go with your gut. If it’s not the right fit, walk.
  3. So let’s say you want the job, Play. It. Cool. Most employers or hiring people do not expect an immediate response. Don’t say “yes” or “no,” instead say you need some time to think about it. Ask for an amount of time (a day, three?) to contemplate, or ask when they expect an answer. Also express great enthusiasm, but hedge your bets by saying things like “if things work out, we are going to do great things,” in the hypothetical. It’s a fine line to walk, but you can do the aloof enthusiastic dude.
  4. Now the ball is in your court. Is this a job that you want? Due to:
    1. long term prospects,
    2. the people you work with (don’t underestimate the people you’ll work with every day, they have the opportunity to make or break your happiness),
    3. fit for your personal beliefs (again, don’t underestimate how going against your ethics or morals will impact your long-term happiness),
    4. working hours and
    5. work-life balance (among other things).
  5. What do you do? To start to negotiate you need to understand the overall compensation, not just salary. Look at things like time off, vacation, holidays (those are usually more or less set), and salary. Look at things like intangibles like free soda or coffee or food, allowance for vehicle or phones, flex hours, working from home, 401(k) match percent or other bennies, and the cost of insurance. Those are all tougher to quantify, but may have a big impact on both your happiness and bottom line. For salaries, get an understanding by checking out Payscale or (again) GlassDoor or SalaryWizard to get an idea on what your company or industry pays (you should do this in advance of an interview even, as they are likely to ask). Then pound it into that thick skull of yours that you are wanted, and you have some leverage. Now what are you going to do about it? You shoot for what you think you are worth. Now this will likely be hard for you. It always is for me, no matter how much you believe your worth. Many people don’t negotiate their salary for fear, or perceived lack of skills. You’re not most people, and by simply asking for more (within reason), you stand a good chance of getting more.
  6. Recognize that companies have internal policies and rules in place that may prevent you from getting what you think you might be worth, so there is always a ceiling. They often research, and put you in a range of salaries that are typical for your industry or position both internally and externally, but often the initial offer is not at the top of the range since they understand you may try to negotiate it higher. While you may overshoot the top end of the range, shoot for what you think you are worth, and recognize it may come in below that price. So you start by saying something like “Thanks for the opportunity, I’m really appreciative. However, my research on (website: Payscale, Bureau of Labor, Salary.com, whatever, hopefully all) shows the average salary for someone with my experience in this industry is $X. I bring value because I know Y and Z that should help the company win Q client/or increase R productivity/or S technical skills so I am looking in the range of $M to N.” If you have any other leverage, like another offer or interview, or even a job that pays better (or has better overall compensation), now is the time to play that card. If you have a job, it is easier to compare compensation and see how they stack up.
  7. Then you wait. yodaMaybe it comes immediately – you offer your counter, they counter back. Or maybe you talk to your future boss, or hiring manager, and they defer to HR or a higher power who have the keys to the vault. So you wait. Be it five minutes or 3 days. You better have your bottom line in place, and figure out when you’ll take it, or when you’ll walk. When you’re in a spot you hate, or unemployed, your point may be lower. So be it. Accept that sometimes the situation is better even at a lower salary, with more future opportunity, and if you are worth it, you’ll make it up in the long run.  Ask how they do raises or bonuses, and if you’ll be eligible to go through the process as a newer hire – that may make up for a lower than hoped for starting number. But as with any negotiation, if they don’t meet your request, and it doesn’t hit your bottom line, don’t feel resigned to take a job — walk away and keep looking or go back to your old job. Maybe they’ll come back to the table, but unless your skills are unique or your fit perfect, or the company very small, don’t count on it.
  8. When you do accept, get the final offer in writing, indicating salary, starting date, other ancillaries (health insurance, disability insurance, time off, etc.). Never accept a verbal offer, as you’ll have no recourse if you quit your job only to have the verbal offer be reneged. Make sure you talk to HR about the specifics of benefits. When insurance starts, vesting plan, cost, deductibles, etc. You may need to pay for COBRA or some other plan if they don’t start immediately.

I’m about to enter my fifth post-college professional position in a few weeks, in fact, I just signed the final paperwork tonight. The first three I don’t remember doing any negotiation, I was so excited to jump from where I was at, I didn’t really care what I was being paid. Mistake. I matured over the last 10 years and now negotiate every offer. My wife has done the same and we’ve done well to make some big bumps in our family’s income over the last several years. For me:

  • Position 1 was first one out of college. dogI had four summers of internships in my field, I could have demanded more as it was an easy transition, and my employer was notoriously lower-than-average on salaries. Hence, I chose adventure and a spot 1,000 miles away from home (in New Jersey – and it was pretty damn fun) as a priority over making any money. It was a bad start, but it did get better less than two short years later.
  • Position 2, I just wanted a good job and my future wife wanted to get out of New Jersey (no offense John Andre!). Again, good fit for the company I went with, and they gave me some nice bumps and promotions while there, but I could have negotiated for more at the start and come out even more ahead.
  • Position 3 I took so I could stop my extensive traveling. Holly and i were now married, and wanted to start a family, and I was on the road sometimes 3-5 months at a time (home every second or third weekend). Hence, Position 3 offered me a chance to learn more skills and be at home, and again, I didn’t negotiate and actually took less money to get out of Position 2. I generally liked working at Position 3, learned a shit-ton, was promoted several times so started to finally make pretty good money. But I had the opportunity (and was being pursued) to work with my mentor from Position 2 who had started a new office for a different company. Since nothing was driving my departure from Company 3 except desire to get in on the ground floor of a smaller company that had potential, I had some leverage. Plus, I did like my job.
  • Position 4 (my current position): I negotiated a 10% salary increase to come over to #4 (and I was fairly paid at Position 3 by the end). I had a lot of good experiences here, learning new skills and, at least for awhile, being an integral part of growing the business. Now I am just a cog, an important cog, but a cog nonetheless. Hence, time to move on…
  • Position 5 (upcoming), in a few weeks, I will be making 6% more than I was a month ago. With Position 3. Yep, returned to an old company – a big reason to always behave professionally and not burn bridges. You never know how you’ll end up. At the end of the day, I will be making almost 30% more with Company 3 than I was when I left 4 years ago. Switching jobs for new skills can pay dividends, and this is a good example since returning full circle, I’m not sure this salary increase would have come organically.welldone

My wife bounced (in just the last 4 years too), from past firm (call it Firm-1), to 15% salary increase in totally new opportunity (with lots of travel, and learning super new skills), was fired (not her fault), dropped about the same amount back for a year (started a new branch of a small company-great growth opportunity that wasn’t quite right), then returned to Firm-1. She’s now making about 20% more than she was 3 years ago, partially due to the new skills learned when she left. She negotiated (hard) each job switch.

So my final thoughts:

  • Even if you like your job, keep an eye out for other opportunities
  • Leverage those into interviews/offers
  • If you like your job, use those offers to increase your current salary, or be prepared to jump. That’s a topic for another day, but you can and should, use an offer as a negotiating tactic for your current company if you love your current company (except for the pay). The grass is not always greener. Oftentimes a known situation of mostly good is better than an unknown story of promises and expectations.
  • If you don’t like your job, or if you lose your job, and get an offer, negotiate the shit out of that. Many people find themselves with better long-term salaries by switching jobs on occasion and by compounding raises and salary bumps.
  • Don’t be afraid to take a pay cut for better opportunity, new skills, better intangibles (flex time, work from home, insurance, people) that may make your life SO MUCH HAPPIER! Don’t be a slave to the dollars.
  • In life, negotiations are always tricky – often both sides feel a little slighted. That is par for the course, but if both sides feel like they won, that is better. Do what you can to show your value to what you can provide, and likely, if you deliver, all sides will be happy.

Best of luck!

musial negotiation