September 21, 2016

An Average Life? Aim Higher

Average means ordinary or usual. Average is what many people aspire to be. Don’t rock the boat, don’t stand out, don’t make waves. I’m guessing you want more. You want each day to be special, to mean something. You’d like your life to follow a path that you create.

Here’s the answer: ignore common wisdom. Just forget it. Common is average. Your life can be more by being different. Here are 4 ways to break from the pack and create a satisfying retirement lifestyle that is under your control.

1) Short cuts usually get you lost. Too many people figure they know how to get something for nothing. Hard work is for suckers. The path to glory and greatness lies through other's efforts or money. Don’t bother perfecting your skills. Don’t waste time learning what you need to know. Look for the easy way. Look for the shortcut. Just don’t be surprised if you find yourself in the forest with no way out.

There are no shortcuts on the road to a non-average life. You have to want it enough to work hard for it. You accept there is no way to bypass the effort involved. You see the sign for the shortcut, and choose the other path.

2) Experts often know less than you. Our society worships experts. If someone is an expert, whatever he or she says must be better than what you think or believe. You would be wise to stop worrying and just do what they say, buy what they recommend, and live how they have determined is best.

Bunk. An expert is often self-declared. He may have no track record or experience to have earned that label. She has no idea what works best for you in your unique set of circumstances. Consider that maybe you are the best expert there is in figuring what is right for you. Stop listening to every talking head. Start listening to yourself.

3) Newer isn’t always better. We upgrade, replace, or redo out of boredom with the old. Commercials have convinced us our life will be a whole lot better with the latest whatever. Newer is always better. Our clothes will be whiter, our teeth brighter, and our home life more pleasant.

Not true. Today’s appliances are made to fail, whereas the stuff from 20 years ago would last forever. Computers will work just fine years after Microsoft wants you to upgrade to a new OS that makes all your drivers obsolete. With decent care, your car can easily go 125,000 or more and be fully paid for. To resist the constant call to buy what is new and improved takes above average will power.

4) You can’t spend your way out of debt. This is not what our consumer society wants you to do. The average American household spends 133% of what it earned. I’d suggest there is a very direct correlation between that fact and the recession of not that many years ago. Our entire way of life is built on credit, for housing, cars, education, giant TVs, vacations…everything. Sometimes credit is helpful and necessary. Few of us can buy a home with cash in our pocket.

The problem arises when we attempt to fund our day-to-day lives with credit we can’t pay back. Your life is out of your control. Decisions you make are predicated on how you can balance this bill against that credit card, against that obligation. Your entire lifestyle can collapse overnight if you lose your job. The solution is so obvious it seems almost silly to say it. But, with the average American household having total credit card debt of $16,000, apparently not.

You were made to be more than average. You have the potential to excel and exceed expectations. It just takes above average will power, determination, and a clear vision of what you want to accomplish. Ban good enough from your vocabulary.





15 comments:

  1. Some wise and thoughtful words Bob. I totally agree with 1 and 4, the others not as much. We need experts to help us figure out this world. We need those who have studied the problem way beyond what we are willing to do, to give us their wisdom. If you don't trust experts then you are saying I only believe what I want. That being said my hero Will Rogers had some wise words about this topic. He said experts are only experts in their field, get them off that topic and they are no better than the rest of us.

    I agree that newer isn't ALWAYS better but it is often times better. I know I would literally be lost many times without my GPS. It gets me where I need to go. Oh by the way, no one tracks you while you are using it. The app on your device takes readings from three satellites to determine where you are. Then there is text messaging that is a life saver for me. Without it I would be without the ability to communicate with others when I am away from home. But I do agree that my iPhone 6 works just fine. No need to run off and upgrade simply because an upgrade it there.

    I hope your vacation is going well my friend...

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    1. I sold myself as an "expert" for many years in the radio consulting business. In looking back, I was really just a guy who helped someone who knew the answer to a problem but needed confirmation or a gentle nudge. Was I an "expert" or just a sounding board? To this day, I am not sure.

      The trip is going well. We will be entering Kentucky tomorrow with lots of important experiences and memories to date.

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    2. I think the title 'expert' is way overused these days. If you want to find a true expert on just about anything you need to research them and get referrals. We can all get duped once in a while.
      b

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    3. Anymore, the Internet gives everyone access to enough research and tools to make an informed decision about most things. Just don't accept the decision that reinforces preconceptions!

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    4. I kind of like to say the same thing about financial advisors. How many really know more than what is common sense. The vast majority don't do any better than computer generated index funds. But I still believe in experts. If I have a heart blockage I will search out and expert to take care of it. Real experts are as needed as ever and its a shame that people don't give them the credit they deserve.

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  2. Great post Bob! In our consumer driven society we have lost sight of what's really important. Twenty years ago my then 4-year-old grandson was bouncing around on the couch and said, "Grandma do you know what a want and a need are?" To my 'no' he replied, "A toy is a want; a house is a need." My daughter was already teaching him the difference. That's where we have to start if we are to change the way we look at life and stop thinking material things are going to make us happy. A safe home, food on the table, debt-free...that makes for a happier life. My other mantra is no one knows what's best for Kathy like Kathy does. Thanks Bob!

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    1. What an insightful comment from a 4 year old. There are lots of people who are ten times his age who don't know the difference.

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  3. Enjoyed this post, Bob. Years ago in Baltimore a very popular figure was quoted as saying, "An expert is a guy from out of town". Also I have noticed that at this time of our lives when healthcare is so important many seem to consider their doctors as 'experts'. I like to remind them that half of them graduated in the bottom half of their class.

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    1. "The bottom half of the class".......true but not reassuring! I used to quote the line about consultants as folks who flew in from 500 miles away to borrow your watch to tell you what time it is.

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  4. I think there's a place for "good enough" depending upon the demands and energy level of the day. I do believe that some things require 110% (i.e. dealing with a chronic illness) while other things can be allotted 70% (i.e. what's for dinner tonight). I think perfectionism and giving 110% all the time are rooted in a fear of failure which can lead some people to a stand still. I also believe that it takes an above average psyche to not give in to the constant call to spend, spend, spend.

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    1. Today is a good example of your point: We arrived at a rather marginal RV park in Kentucky. We are only spending the night so I decided to not hook up to the sewer, not put out the chairs, and not unhook the car. We will spend our time here expending minimal energy..probably about 30% of average. That is all that is required in this situation.

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  5. So true on all points. As Suzuki Roshi said, in the beginner's mind are many possibilities. In the expert's mind are few. Also, about the last point, I just had a discussion with one of my kids about "Don't spend what you don't have."

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    1. The last point is almost counterintuitive in our culture. It is so easy to get into financial trouble. In fact, at seems such action is encouraged.

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