Thursday, June 26, 2008

5 Secrets to Success, Wealth, and Happiness

One man's road to Success, wealth and happiness was created by studying the Book of Proverbs, the proverbs of King Solomon (who knew). Anyways instead of a book review (I'll skip the part about how this guy makes his millions) I thought I'd save you some time and give you the gist of the book.

So here are the 5 Secrets to Success, Wealth, and Happiness. I have expanded upon the 1st two in detail because they really stuck out to me.

"Secret" #1 - Be Diligent
This Author states that it is pretty much human nature to take the path of least resistance, to do the minimum, and to just get by. He argues that in order for people to aspire to be more, all the success, wealth and happiness in the world is reserved as a reward for being diligent versus lazy.

He states that being diligent is to be:
a) Persistent towards your goal or in refining your craft (not in a stubborn way but with an openness to continuing to alter your course when needed to overcome obstacles).
b) Hard working
c) Well planned
d) Perform with speed, efficiency, and excellence so you will be sought out for your work.

The rewards of this diligence are:
i) True fulfillment without the want or need of material possessions
ii) Respect and admiration from society for your work
iii) Satisfaction and success
iv) Great wealth (everyone is happy to pay someone who does great work)

The author states that pretty much by being lazy you can assure yourself of having the opposite of each of the things above.

Most interesting was his beliefs around the root causes of laziness:
1) Self-centeredness - those who are open see the world around them will find an abundance of opportunity to make a difference with their own unique skills
2) Conceit or arrogance - those who are humble will be open to learn much from the world around them. Those who are arrogant know it all already and continue to takes the actions they want to take without improvement in approach or aspiration.
3) Ignorance and Irresponsibility (Foolishness) - The ignorant act without regard to the consequence of their actions. It is easier to be ignorant than to be educated because it takes time and effort to become something.

I won't be able to comment in as much detail as I would like on each of these without losing some readers, but this is one of two that I will comment on. At times I think you can go through the motions and do just enough to get by in this world because you haven't spent the time or the soul-searching effort to decide what you want to do. If you are going to do or study something, do it as best you can. If you are half-assing it - then you probably don't know what you want to do (or you may know it's not to become that which you are studying to become) so do something else.

"Secret" #2 - Eliminate Your Sense of Entitlement
A sense of Entitlement in any area of your life is an enemy that will keep you bound to unhappiness. This author argues that you will continuously be looking to others with unrealistic expectations and no control over what they actually are willing to give you. The only way to break loose of this unhappy and bitter cycle of entitlement is to release all unrealistic expectations you may have of others, including the government, your spouse, your employer, friends and your relatives.

This is the other topic I feel compelled to comment on. After spending 2 years studying Gen-Y (also known as generation debt) I have talked with many teenagers and people in their early twenties and I have seen this first hand. I am not sure what compels people to constantly keep score of what others owe them without thinking about what they have contributed in order to justify their "ransom". And too often you will find that the people who feel they are entitled to something are those who are desperate for that hand-out because they do not give enough of themselves to earn it. Once these people figure out how to earn what it is they desire (money, respect, etc) they will quickly break free of the chains of relying on others as they figure out how to rely on themselves.

In a business context the story goes as follows. Most people don't know how to make money. They don't know what they should do to have someone offer them compensation, so they look to an employer to tell them what to to to generate money for the company, and the company gladly gives them a wage which will be less than their output for the company. One famous business quote is that all of the enormous profits of the Fortune 500 companies are from excess output of the employees that they are not being paid fairly for. Once you learn how to earn money (or create money) without needing a company to tell you what to do, you will have "job security" for the rest of your life because you will always be able to rely an yourself versus needing a job from someone else.

But quickly back to the Gen-Yers. The sense of entitlement is alive and well as many people just starting out and working full time believe their standard of living should be as high as is was when living at home with mom and dad. They forget that it took their parents 20+ years to get to that level in their lives. This is a rude awakening for many Gen-Yers and a big reason why they prefer to live at home with their parents until they can save up for a higher starting standard of living. I still support Gen-Yers who chose to live at home with their parents because I think it is more responsible than starting out buying a home or a new car too soon while living lavishly. Far too many Gen-Yers start out with enormous college debt to let alone then add to their debt by spending beyond their means with no thoughts of saving for the future or retirement.

This section really struck me as I feel our nation becoming more of an entitlement nation than a boot-strapping nation of hard-working achievers which I believe is what built this nation.

"Secret" #3 - Be Grateful
If you are not grateful, DEVELOP a grateful heart. We all start with different levels of difficult situations in our lives, so this Author recommends if you currently don't feel that grateful, "treasure hunt" for things in your life that you could be grateful for already. In addition to warming you heart and those around you, you will begin to see joy in your life that is consistent, persistent, and lasting.

"Secret" #4 - Root out the weeds of Envy
Envy is a bottomless pit with no end. It is in opposition to feeling fulfilled. Envy is a misbelief that the things others have makes them happy or would make you happy. I think research has shown that by achieving a new level of possessions, we quickly recalibrate and would then desire what's next. When you know what you want in life, you can then know when enough is enough for you. Until you do that soul-searching, you will envy out of fear because you don't know enough about yourself to measure when you will have enough and be fulfilled.

"Secret" #5 - Live Wisely
The author states that Wisdom is not just about knowing what is right but acting on it. Living wisely involves DOING the right things, for yourself and for other around you. It is not enough to say "I know I should appreciate the people in my life" if you are actually being cold or bitter. It is an emptiness inside that fosters an external chill. Probably everyone knows someone who is curt or rude, and I also believe most people know that those people aren't happy with themselves more than they are unhappy with the masses they aim to irritate. Wisdom is about continual learning and self-improvement, and then putting those learnings into action. My takeaway from this point is not to just talk the talk but walk the walk. Another point that comes to mind with the live wisely point is that inner peace is not enough. I think everyone must then work to spread that peace.

So that's my long-winded summary. If you made it to the end congratulations. By no means do I pretend to be an expert on any of this, but I can now say that this book has brought it more top of mind as something I strive to be conscious of. And now - hopefully you will too because then in some small and indirect way maybe I can pass along some success, wealth and happiness to your life. That is your reward for being diligent enough to finish this blog!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

There IS Life on Mars

The Mars Phoenix Mission is a robotic spacecraft on a mission to Mars to search for environments suitable for microbial life, and to research the history of water there.

But I don't want to talk about how amazing this mission is (and it is), or how unbelievable it is that we can get color images from the surfaces of other planets. No - this blog focuses on one assumption: What would it mean if there IS life on Mars?

In my mind, if there is evidence of life on mars (which presumably could have lived there over a billion years ago) life in the Universe is no longer "special". In fact it would lead me to believe that life in the Universe is abundant, though spread out through cosmic time depending on the specific life of the stars and planets involved. In fact there is an equation (The Drake Equation) that predicts the likelihood that we could come in contact with intelligent life in our solar system.

The Drake equation states that:

where N is the number of civilizations in our galaxy with which communication might be possible; and
R* is the average rate of star formation in our galaxy
fp is the fraction of those stars that have planets
ne is the average number of planets that can potentially support life per star that has planets
fℓ is the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop life at some point
fi is the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop intelligent life
fc is the fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space
L is the length of time such civilizations release detectable signals into space.

To think in an almost unbounded Universe that not only is there life out there, but there was life just next door, as the Phoenix potentially could show, suggests that life is not precious but maybe still fleeting. Moreover - the genetic variability in complex life would be so wild, we probably can't imagine what other life could look like. Considering the genetic variety this planet has seen (not the most extreme in my mind being dinosaurs considering the extreme amounts of energy needed to keep them alive) if life is abundant, then we may not be the product of some higher power but one output of an infinite number of random number generators.

Now I am not presuming that Phoenix will find evidence of complex life, or that it will even find evidence of life. In fact it will be lucky just to find water on mars at all (see left - thanks Mike!). More likely it could find evidence of microbes. But then I don't think it would be far fetched to think that if there was life on Mars, then similar to life on our planet, simple forms of life over billions of years can evolve into the complex organisms here on Earth like the cat or the platypus, the hippopotamus or the giraffe.

In fact I am not sure that society as a whole or even our varied Religions are prepared to incorporate the fact that life could be more abundant than we previously thought and exist throughout the Universe. I think we often struggle combining Science and Religion (The old evolution versus creationism debate). If Darwinism is tough enough to grasp, then how much would we struggle to accept life outside the bounds of Earth.

Funny evolution side note. There are crabs in Japan called Samurai Crabs, or Heikengani - species of crab native to Japan, with a shell that bears a pattern resembling a human face. It is locally believed that these crabs are reincarnations of the spirits of the Heike warriors who committed suicide by jumping into the sea. Tradition follows that if a crab is caught with a Samurai face on it - it is thrown back into the sea. Carl Sagan used these crabs as an example of unintentional artificial selection (versus natural selection) where if you were a crab with markings somewhat similar to a Samurai warrior's face, you survived more often than any others, and over time you looked more and more like a Samurai warrior because of this selection!

I for one am rooting for us finding evidence for life on Mars and I am not sure why. I don't think I have completely wrapped my mind around what that would mean, but I have an inner desire for it to be true. There is a romantic and elitist notion to life only existing on Earth, but that seems to be such a lonely and cold existence. And as my next blog discusses, the case where life only exists on Earth leads me to think we need to do so much more as a species than we are currently doing to leave a legacy in the Universe (and I don't know what that is obviously).

There ISN'T Life on Mars

It's probably not a big story if we don't find life on mars. After all it's a long shot for us to think that a spacecraft that we launched 442,000,000 miles from earth and will only have 92 days to look for left over evidence of life in ice sparse buried ice remnants before the spacecraft is frozen and destroyed is what I call an astronomical long shot.

So let's focus on a bigger question. What if there isn't any other life ANYWHERE in the solar system. What could that mean? Consider the short time we have been on earth.

The Cosmic Calendar is a scale in which the lifetime of the universe is mapped onto one calendar year; that is to say, the Big Bang took place on a cosmic January 1 at precisely midnight, and today's date and time is December 31 at midnight. On this calendar, the solar system did not appear until September 9, life on Earth arose on September 30, the first dinosaurs appeared on December 25th, the first flowers on December 28th and the first primates on December 30. The first humans did not arrive until around 10:30 p.m. on New Year's Eve, and all of human history has been recorded in the last 10 seconds.

So if life only exists here on earth, and we are but a flash in the pan, what does it all mean? Are we one of the greatest flukes in evolution, or are we direct evidence of a higher power at work? It boggles the mind. if we are unique in the Universe, and I mean not just currently, but in all time, you would think that we would have some greater purpose. But the facts are that the entire planets evolution was headed in many different directions only to have a meteor kill off all of the dinosaurs in one giant mass extinction (of which there have been many) and make it possible for us to be here today. In fact over 99% of species that ever lived are now extinct. We probably will be too, some day. Eventually the Earth will dry up just like Mars and best case scenario only "trace evidences" of life could be found frozen in buried ice.

I guess the big question is why are we here, and as this blog proposes, if we are the only place where life exists AND life will only exist for such a short period of time in the cosmic sense, what's the whole point? Are we supposed to do anything special? Or will the next form of life that takes over be as intelligent and do something special? It just seems like if life is so precious in the Universe - we probably should be accomplishing more than eating, sleeping, and vacationing.

Just keep in mind that after a nuclear world war, or mass extinction from our greenhouse gasses and global warming, the Earth will still be here, and as inhabitable as ever considering we have been through the Snow Ball Earth:

Snowball earth describes the coldest global climate imaginable - a planet covered by glacial ice from pole to pole. The global mean temperature would be about -50°C (-74°F) because most of the Sun's (Solar) radiation would be reflected back to space by the icy surface. The average equatorial temperature would be about -20°C (-10°F), roughly similar to present Antarctica. Because of its solid surface, the climate on a snowball earth would have much in common with present Mars.

The carbon dioxide levels necessary to unfreeze Snow Ball Earth have been estimated as being 350 times what they are today, about thirteen percent of the atmosphere. Over 4 to 30 million years, enough CO2 and methane, mainly emitted by volcanoes, would accumulate to finally cause enough greenhouse effect to make surface ice melt in the tropics until a band of permanently ice-free land and water developed.

I guess in summary there probably isn't much we could do to the Earth worse than what it has seen, though this is not a case to ignore being environmentally friendly as that is critical to our existence. I just think it is a low benchmark to say leave the Earth in tact and live like the animals when we could potentially do or create so much more. Rather this is a a call for "what the heck legacy are we going to leave, as potentially the only sentient beings ever to exist in the Universe." There seems to be an exponentially higher benchmark required for our contributions to the Universe, and in general we spend most of our time just trying to survive and very little time creating, inventing, and building.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Unsung Hero?

Unsung Hero or Worst Invention of the 20th Century
Let the debate begin. I submit to you: The Pay Binoculars!

I'm voting for worst invention of the 20th century. The pay binoculars legacy will be right up there with the condom dispensers in bathrooms. Really, can you take anyone seriously if you see them put a quarter in either?

Post your vote in a comment!

Uncle Sam is an Idiot!

Ok - so reading Yahoo! Finance about retirement I stumble upon this article which really plays up the value of a new online retirement calculator:

An improved tool from Uncle Sam is one of the best resources available to help calculate your retirement finances.

Most people have the same first question about retirement: How big a nest egg will I need? Two years ago, the Employee Benefits Security Administration, part of the Department of Labor, published "Taking the Mystery Out of Retirement Planning." This smart, 62-page guide helps answer that question in a detailed, but easy-to-understand, manner.

And now it's even better. Now, these worksheets have been moved online and you can let the Labor Department's computers do the math.

I have used many online calculators and don't like most (which is why I have made my own retirement spreadhseets) - So I head on over to the new tool to see for myself and to use their sheet you must be between 50 and 70 years old!

It actually gives you an ERROR if you try to say you are younger.

NEWS FLASH for uncle Sam, if you are between 50 and 70, there isn't a lot of wiggle room to plan for retirement! You are already most of the way through with your plan! (Whether you knew it or not). Also my peers are VERY retirement focused and we are all in our 20's and 30's.

That's why Uncle Sam is an Idiot.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Boston Three Party

It's officially an embarrassment of riches in Boston. A 16-0 Patriots team, reigning World Series Champion Red Sox, and now NBA Champion Boston Celtics raise banner #17.

What I learned from this playoff run.

1) Rondo is going to be a star
2) Pierce really IS The Truth
3) "Blue collar" teams win Championships
4) Kobe is NOT Jordan and layed 2 eggs in key games in the finals
5) Lebron really IS a cry baby

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

An Engineer's Guide to Cats

Thanks to Nils for sending this to me, and now that I have cats I think this is extremely funny!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Acceleration (Fun with Physics)

Which has a faster acceleration? My 300+ hp car, or gravity? (ignore the different planes in which they operate)

The question came up today because I was joking with Dave K. that my old 48hp 1980 VW Rabbit Diesel accelerated from 0-60 mph in under 5 seconds - then I clarified "off a cliff". Hence the debate.

Gravity seems to be such a weak force. I mean if I drop a tennis ball no one points how how that ball just peeled out of my hands. So how fast would gravity accelerate you from 0-60 mph? Is it faster than my car which goes 0-60 mph in 5.1 seconds? It turns out that gravity is pretty darn fast (accelerationally speaking). For those science geeks I will be referring only to gravity here on earth.

Here are the numbers (G = force of gravity)

2008 BMW 335xi     0-60 in 5.1 s ~ 0.55 G
2008 "Gravity car"   0-60 in 2.7 s    1.00 G

Turns out an F1 race car can pull 1 G accelerating, but if you want to talk fun facts, the same race car can pull 5 G's braking!!!!1 It can go from 200-0 in 1.9 seconds or 180 ft! That is amazing!

A human can accelerate at about 0.4 G's running the 40 yd dash
The space shuttle takes off with 3 G's
A 1997 Dodge Viper can go 0-60 in 2.9s or 0.94 G's
A falcon can pull 18 G's pulling up from a dive!

Other fun fact:
In 1954 Col. John P. Stapp rode a rocket sled to 632 mph in ~6 seconds and then came to a stop in 1.4 seconds. He experienced deceleration forces averaging 25 G's with a 40 G peak!

(since I rarely post 2 blogs on the same evening, be sure to check out the Shelby modeling blog below!)

Shelby's Modeling Career

Shelby's modeling career began a week ago. A local dog shop had a sign for the Hyde Park Living magazine seeking dog models. Meghan and her mom took Shelby and Meghan's mom's dog Luna in for the casting.

My take:
Everyone's modeling career has to start somewhere. But I am not sure the phone will be ringing from these pictures.

The newspaper people dressed Shelby up as a life guard and Luna as an Elvis Presley dancer - I mean sailor.

This 1st picture of Shelby has a "Spud McKenzie" feel to it:

Baywatch beware!

Shelby's "Go To" Pose (aka Magnum)

Luna is off to her 1st "Sock Hop"

Cute Doggie!

Shelby and Luna couldn't get along any better. They seem to be best friends already and play together all the time. For all the reasons I am glad we got 2 cats to play together, Shelby must be excited to have a playmate!