Is Everyone Having Fun Without Me???


Kicking the Fear of Missing Out in the Face!

Ever since mankind formed social groups we have always experienced a level of anxiety associated with being left out.  What’s the big deal about owning a wheel anyway?  Life would be so much cozier if I had a new stone fire-pit like that tribe over there.  Why didn’t Suzy invite me to the party?  But in recent years, with the advent of the internet and social media, this ancient anxiety has been ramped up to new and unprecedented levels.

In 2004 while finishing his MBA the soon to be world renowned venture capitalist Patrick J. McGinnis wrote an article for The Harbus (the student newspaper of Harvard Business School) entitled “Social Theory at HBS: McGinnis’s Two FOs”  in which he coined the phrase “The Fear of Missing Out” or FOMO.

FOMO is characterized by an almost manic drive to see and do everything.  But while you are rushing from one commitment to the next there is something else bubbling just below the surface.  You see it when people who should be engaged with their surroundings sit in the middle of a highly stimulating activity face down in their phones.  These are the people who abruptly change plans, never give a firm commitment and always seem to have one foot out the door.  They have graduated from mere FOMO, to the second FO – FOBO or the Fear of a Better Option.

FOMO is not really new.  Social Media and other forms of technology like text messaging have made it more prevalent and easier to get caught up in than ever before but the Fear of Missing Out has always been with us.  So has the Fear of a Better Option.  When I was a kid – before cell phones and social media, when phones had cords and hung on walls and computers weighed forty pounds, we called it something else.  We called it staying in touch, being popular or keeping up with the Joneses.  But whatever you call it – it’s FOMO.

As your Financial Coach it often feels like I’m fighting losing battle against FOMO and FOBO every day.  These two FOs are the main enemy of sound financial planning.  Keeping up with the Joneses when our every move is documented and published on social media is a losing game.  Especially when we think about the fact that people only post their best moments on Facebook and seem to go silent as soon as the credit card bill arrives, the bill collector comes knocking or the hydro gets turned off.  (That last one more out of necessity than choice).

We need a third FO that can over power and replace the first two.  And think I found it.  I call it FOOM, the Fear of Outliving your Money.  When FOOM takes over your every thought, FOMO and FOBO don’t stand a chance.

The Fear of Outliving your Money forces you to budget for today and save for tomorrow.  It used to be that the average person needed savings of about $1 million in order to retire comfortably.  But that’s not true anymore.  With longer life expectancy and lower interest rates that number is more like $1.5 million.

I looked at a projection for a 35 year old yesterday who earns $100,000 per year (slightly higher than the nation average) and his number was a whopping $1.9 million.  But FOMO and pressures placed on him by watching all his friends on social media has him overspending to the point that he has exactly $0.00 saved and only 30 years to go before his planned retirement date.  That means he needs to put away over $600 per month for the rest of his life starting immediately.  When I told him so he nearly fell out of his chair, not because he doesn’t have the money – he does, but because it would mean intentionally missing out on some of the life experiences he has become accustomed to.

FOOM kicked FOMO in the face!   After a little bit of bargaining because he wanted to have his cake and eat it too, (that’s FOBO) he got it.

So here’s my advice for all you people out there with a bad case of FOMO.  Go on a social media holiday – try it even for a day and see if you don’t start to feel a bit better about yourself.  At the very least stop looking at your friend’s latest vacation pictures and start a savings plan, even a small one will help.  And whenever FOMO starts to creep in look at the balance of your savings accounts and tell yourself that no what happens from now on you will always have at least that much.  As you discipline yourself and watch that money grow, FOOM will dissipate and FOMO will become irrelevant.

In many ways that’s what Financial Planning is all about.  I’m here to help you realign your priorities and help you eliminate all forms for financial fear , whether it’s FOMO, FOBO or FOOM fear has no place in financial planning.  In fact it’s the planning part the really kicks all forms of fear in the face.

 

 

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Going Ballistic


I recently heard it said that humans could be considered ballistic beings.

What this means is that we are meant to always go forward in one direction.  Any attempt to go backwards or veer from side to side creates friction and causes us to miss the mark with our lives.  True, we can sometimes decide to change direction mid flight but not without considerable effort and a loss of velocity that is difficult to regain.  If you are constantly switching targets just forget about it, the effort required to fight against friction will kill your focus and cause you to miss everything.

Granted, like all analogies this one breaks down after a while but I think you get the point.  If humans are indeed ballistic beings, in order to remain effective we need to be aware of two things that make bullets work:  Focus and Velocity.

Focus

When a bullet is pointed at a target nothing else matters.  So it should be with us, goals are meant to be achieved.  The degree to which we are successful with our goals is largely a function of our ability to remain focused on them.  Anything that pulls is in a direction other than our intended target creates friction in our lives.  Friction slows us down and if it’s allowed to continue it will cause us to miss.

The most successful entrepreneurs in the world always have an incredible degree of focus.  They tend to be what my friend Tim once called a one note song.  Their target is all they talk about, all they think about and all they do.  But one note songs aren’t very interesting and not many people can stand to listen to them for very long.  This causes all kinds of problems, relationships suffer, physical and mental health suffers, and if allowed to go unchecked even if we hit the bull’s eye, we eventually explode and have nothing else to show for it.

Velocity

The other aspect that makes bullets work is velocity.   Speed is required in order for a bullet to maintain its trajectory.  Too slow and gravity takes over, pulling the bullet down and causing it to miss the mark.  But often forgotten about is what happens when a bullet moves too fast, it can pass right through the target and continue on until it hits something (or someone) else.  This then causes additional damage.

People who have a natural tendency to maintain a high degree of focus, like me, can sometimes get frustrated when the velocity is not up to our expectations.  The thing is, focus is almost 100% within our own control but velocity is not.  The speed with which we are able to carry out our plans usually, if not always, depends on other people.  The result is that we can only move as fast as the people around us are willing to go.  Sometimes this velocity, or lack thereof can result in a loss of focus, other times, when others catch the vision the speed with which things begin to happen can be remarkably fast.   This is what I have recently begun referring to as life at the Speed of Relationship.

So here’s the deal.

Going Ballistic in life and business requires both focus and velocity.  In order to maintain your focus you need to be able to work at a pace that keeps you engaged and on track.  But in order to maintain that pace you may also need to recruit the help of those around you and that requires some people skills.  Sometimes you will need to slow down and cultivate relationships in order to then speed up and get things done.

And remember; you can always talk faster but sometimes it pays to listen slow.

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VLOG: Episode 6, The Heart of An Entrepreneur


Driving in to the office the other day I started thinking about what it takes to be an entrepreneur and how much mad respect I have for entrepreneurs and what they do.  Here’s the video I recorded about it.

Once again sorry about the audio, I need to both speak up and get a better microphone  I think.  And for some reason I thought sitting in front of a window on a sunny day would be a good idea, won’t make that mistake again, I promise.

I’ll get these technical issues figured about eventually, bear with me okay…  For now enjoy the video.

My Peace Statement


Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they will be called Sons of God.- Matthew 5:9

I originally wrote out my Peace Statement in August of 2009.  It was actually the first thing I ever posted on line.  In light of recent events I thought it might be a good idea to revisit and update what I wrote back then.It’s been over 8 years since I started my first blog but so little has changed. 

Through the reading of Naomi Klein’s book “The Shock Doctrine”; one of the things that kept coming back to me is a phrase that I coined about 10 years ago while sitting in church and listening to a sermon on peacemaking just after Remembrance Day.

Peace without Justice is Oppression

I grew up Mennonite and was baptized into the community of Nairn Mennonite Church, just north of London ON at the age of 17.  Since the very beginning the Mennonite Church has officially declared itself to be a Peace Church.  But when you make a declaration like that what you are really saying is that you want to protect Justice, otherwise you’re just ignoring and oppressing people with dissenting views.  Peace is not simply the absence of war; it is the presence of justice and the absence of oppression.

Oppression does not have to be overt either.  It can be very subtle.  If we aren’t careful the majority rule or democracy in general can become distorted and look more like – biggest guns rule, elite rule, wealthy rule, or educated rule.

We in the wealthy West, or more accurately the North West are often times inadvertently waging a war of oppression on the developing regions of the world, mostly to the South and East of us.  Over the past 30 years, and most rapidly since the fall of the Berlin Wall, governments, corporations and wealthy individuals have exploited the poor and uneducated in the developing world for their own gain.  They have extracted natural resources and caused unprecedented damage to the environment, corrupted and interfered in local government affairs and generally ignored human rights all in the name of profit.

What are the oppressed people of the world to do?  They do not have the resources to stand up to us economically, nor do they have the education or skills that are useful to the world wide economy, so they strike back in the only way they can.   The world wide drive to globalization and homogenization of cultures through the economic domination of the North West has given rise to terrorism.

One of the things I have learned while exploring this Rabbit Hole is that we cannot continue to fight terrorism with guns.  Greg Mortensen – founder of the Central Asia Institute is the chief driving force behind the building of over 50 schools in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.  The schools he has founded equally educate both boys and girls.   At a joint meeting of US congressmen and Pentagon officials Mortensen stated that:

The war on terror should be fought with books, not bombs. – Greg Mortensen (Central Asia Institute)

This has been a recurrent theme in all of a lot of my own research.  When we give the poor access to knowledge we can bring them into fuller participation in the global economy and help to greatly reduce terrorism and increase security.

For more information on the topic of reducing terrorism through education, I highly recommended Mortensen’s book Three Cups of Tea; One Mans Mission to Promote Peace, One School at a Time”  Check it out and let me know what you think.

 

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Kicking Away the Ladder


(A Lament for Charlottesville, NAFTA and the proper use of Tiki Torches)

It is a very common clever device that when anyone has attained the summit of greatness, he kicks away the ladder by which he has climbed up, in order to deprive others of the means of climbing up after him.  – Friedrich List; The National System of Political Economy

Georg Friedrich List was a German born economist who developed what is known today as the National System of Innovation.  He was a forefather of the German historical school of economics and many of his ideas formed the bases of the European Economic Community, the predecessor of today’s European Union.  His seminal work on the subject of economics and international trade, “The National System of Political Economy” is a three volume set originally published in 1841 which rivals the works of Adam Smith and Karl Marx in terms of lasting influence in the minds of economists the world over.  Sadly List’s ideas were so controversial at the time that he was arrested and exiled to the United States.  He died shortly after the final publication of The National System and never had the opportunity to defend or expand upon his theories.

List’s work focused on a doctrine of national and international management of trade, global collaboration, and supportive interconnectedness.  In sort, Friedrich List was one of the first proponents of comparative advantage and globalization.  The fact that most of his work was completed while living in the United States and the United Kingdom is in no small part responsible for the rise of western domination in international trade over the last century and a half.

In today’s political and economic climate List’s observations regarding protectionism and oppression can be viewed as very timely and prophetic.  Just this past week, behind closed doors in Washington, the United States, Canada and Mexico began the first of several rounds of negotiations aimed at re-writing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  No doubt many of List’s ideas will be front and centre throughout the process, even if many of the negotiators aren’t even conscious of them.

The very people and systems that have used things like tariffs and subsidies to increase trade, and were once in favour of immigration to bolster the workforce and create wealth now actively oppose all attempts of others to use those same devices to achieve the same things.  That, in a nutshell is the current state of international relations and trade, especially in the west were populist sentiment and neo-conservative economic thought prevails.  America was built on immigration, subsidies and cheap labour, now they want to prevent Mexico and punish Canada for doing the same kinds of things in order to protect their own dominance on the world stage.

But that’s not all.

Economics isn’t just about money.  It’s about politics and inter-human relationships as well.  Earlier this week I watched in horror as white men marched through the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia with Tiki Torches chanting “White Lives Matter” and calling for a return to white privilege and the establishment of a so called white homeland.  Nothing is more repulsive than privileged men complaining about a loss of privilege in the most heavily skewed white male privileged society the world as ever known.   If only these men really understood what it meant to be persecuted for the color of your skin, religion, level of education or economic status?

At the end of the day all violence is in some way about economics and a loss of privilege.  Even a miniscule loss of privilege is still a loss of economic influence in a rapidly changing world.    But change is necessary and hanging on to privilege while people scratch and claw their way up the economic ladder is simply impossible.  The only way to do it is to deny the basic humanity in those below you on that ladder.

And that’s what it comes down to; Humanity.   That is humanity defined in terms of benevolence, not just a collective description of the human race.

In 1948 the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  At the time it was a progressive document that envisioned a world very similar to the one proclaimed by the founding fathers in the United States Declaration of Independence.  Among the 30 points adopted by the UN are such stalwarts of humanity as;

Article 1 – We are all born Free and Equal.

Article 7 – We are all equal before the law.

Article 12 – The right to privacy.

Article 20 – The right to public assembly.

Article 21 – The right to democracy.

Article 22 – The right to social security.

Article 26 – The right to education.

Article 30 – No one can take away your human rights.

http://www.youthforhumanrights.org/what-are-human-rights/universal-declaration-of-human-rights/articles-1-15.html

Within the laws of western democracy and any country that is signatory to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, racist rallies like the one that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 13th are an aberration that cannot be tolerated!  Nor can any attempt to restrict trade or curtail immigration.

Freidrich List warned against the potential for both the current contentious NAFTA negotiations and the riots in Charlottesville over 175 years ago.  He could see that at the end of the day, people are selfish and we need institutions like NAFTA and the UN to remind us of our shared humanity.

My prayers are with the victims of racial violence in all its forms and with the men and women tasked with re-negotiating NAFTA.  May we all, first and foremost, remember our shared humanity at times like these.

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

He can be reached at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

 

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The Will of the Introvert


Willed introversion, in fact, is one of the classic implements of creative genius and can be employed as a deliberate device.  It drives the psychic energies into depth and activates the lost continent of unconscious infantile and archetypal images.  The result, of course, may be a disintegration of consciousness more or less complete but on the other hand, if the personality is able to absorb and integrate the new forces, there will be experienced an almost super-human degree of self-consciousness and masterful control.  – Joseph Campbell;  The Hero with A Thousand Faces

I’m an introvert who loves and is fascinated by people.  A bit of an oxymoron?  I don’t think so.

The perfect Saturday for me consists of working out at the gym, (where I can observe people but no one talks to me), reading a good book, writing a little and drinking copious amounts of coffee.  I sometimes go to the library or sit in a coffee shop so I can do all of these things at the same time but still without the need to actually interact with anyone.   My day job requires me to interact with people continually, either in person or on the phone so by the weekend I’m ready for a little quite time.

Lately I’ve been reading Joseph Campbell’s 1949 classic study of comparative mythology “The Hero with A Thousand Faces.”  The basic thesis of the book, as I’ve been able to extract it thus far, is that almost all myth and legend share some major thematic similarities that speak to the core of human psychology.  These themes include what Campbell calls The Hero’s Adventure; Departure, Initiation and Return and The Cosmogonic Cycle; Emanations, The “Virgin” Birth, and Transformation.

Admittedly I haven’t gotten very far into the book – I’m only on page 56 – so this isn’t meant to be an in-depth review or study of Campbell’s work by any means but his description of what he called “willed introversion” caught my attention.   So much so that I wanted to take a pause from reading and explore the concept here in a bit more detail.

Campbell introduces the “willed introvert” in the chapter on how some hero’s initially refuse their calling, ignore the promptings of God or the gods and fail to depart on their adventure.  Jonah, from the Old Testament book of the same name is a perfect example of one who refused his call and became a willful introvert.

The willed introvert can also be someone who is compelled to withdraw by an antagonistic force that is there to prevent the hero from embarking on their journey.  Both Sleeping Beauty and Snow White were put to sleep by jealous witches who feared the result if either of these two heroines were allowed to fulfill their destinies.

But regardless of whether or not the refusal and subsequent introversion is a result of the eventual hero’s choice or forced upon them, the results tend to be the same.  By withdrawing from the world and pulling away from their call the hero is able to learn a valuable lesson which aids in the completion of their appointed task.  They are able to approach things with more clarity of thought, more creativity and more energy than they would have if they had chosen or been able to embark on their task straight away.

Recent psychological research on personality types has begun to scientifically prove much of the same things we have always known through the myths and legends of old.  Introversion and introspection, whether natural, chosen or forced upon us leads to higher Emotional Intelligence (EQ), more empathy and makes us better at planning our next move than our more extroverted friends.  As a result, contrary to the old school out-going and gregarious techniques we thought would help us “get ahead” it’s actually introverts and the people who are capable of slowing down long enough to see the world in more detail and nuance, who tend to rule the world.

So, as early as 1949 Joseph Campbell was on to something that the myths of legends of old have known for centuries.  Sometimes heroes need time to contemplate and plan and taking a pause before moving forward can make us better and more successful.

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

He can be reached at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

 

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