Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Things I’ve Learned, Part One

Be thankful.   For your talent. For your health, for the ability to see, breath and walk. Be thankful for the time you get to spend with the people you love--being with those people you love is best when you are together, but it's still good even if it's only on the phone.

Your own name is music to your ears. That's why people love it when you remember their names. All that being said, the names I like best are "Dad" and "Poppy".

Wear Sunscreen and quit smoking. I have been paying the price for avoiding sunscreen as a kid and smoking as young man for the last 20 years. I fear I will always have to deal with what I did to myself all those years ago.

All our stuff is temporary. Whatever it is that you have today, whether it's riches, possessions, family or health, it can be stolen away in a moment. All your good things are on loan. So while you have good things, cherish them and be thankful.

If you lose something, even if it seems to be everything you have, remember God never closes one door without opening another--maybe even a better door--so be aware and look for that new door, it will be there.

God expects you to accept help. There is an old joke about a drowning man who was offered assistance by a lifeguard, but turned him away saying no thanks, he was waiting for God to help, then he was approached by a fisherman on a boat offering help, and the man turned the fisherman away, saying he trusted that God would help him. Finally he drowned. At the gates to heaven he asked St Peter why God had allowed to drown. St Peter said, "God first sent you a lifeguard and then he sent you a boat, what kind of help did you expect?"

Read more. There's a great deal to be said for reading a real book--probably Kindle counts too-- for actually turning the pages and for creating the tale in your mind's eye. Finding quiet time and spending the time it takes to read a book is healthy, and allows for some think time too.

Binge watching TV is pretty cool. It's almost as good as reading a book if the show is well written. And it sure beats the hell out of 1/2 hour comedies, or news that repeats and repeats and repeats all day.
Go boating whenever you can. There is nothing...absolutely nothing...half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. From the wind In the Willows.

You are the average of your parents. That's a good start. But we are all modified by the people we spend our time with, in other words, you are influenced by your social environment. Choose that environment wisely. Don’t hesitate to make changes when you suspect things (or people) aren’t right.

Childhood doesn't last. When you are a child or a parent, this fact is a happy thought. But later when you have raised your children, you realize it's a shame--you will always remember those little kids, and want them back.

Nobody plants weeds.  But in our social environment, weeds (sometimes in the guise of bad situations) come up.  As soon as you notice them, you must weed your environment, the same is true in your business, don't be afraid to fire people who become weeds.

Real New Englanders save stuff. For 30 years I proudly saved every nail and screw, spring and stick, and oddly found a use for much of what I had "in stock".  But when we moved, it became painfully obvious I had too much junk. Now I am learning to throw things away.

Public opinion is usually wrong. Situations change faster than our society's accepted opinions. They always said you must go to college, you must get married, you must, you must, you must. When our parents went to college--they were in the very top of their age group, when we went to college we were in the upper percentile of our age group, today so many more people go to college that being a college graduate only makes you average--today a diploma is less important and less relevant because the way we do business has changed so much. If you can think for yourself, you will shine at whatever you do.

Remember the nuggets your parents used to say. In the back of my head I still hear my mother repeating her lessons to me. Things like "that may be OK for some people, but it's not for us..." or, "if it seems too good to be true, it probably is..." or, "make me proud". And my father saying, "instead of gambling, you may as well just go throw your money in the ocean--at least you'll know where it went." They never had anything much to say about drinking or smoking, although my father quit smoking only a few years before he was diagnosed with colon cancer. He started smoking again almost right then--saying, "these things won't kill me..."

Perception becomes reality. You must decide how you want to be perceived. You create your own reality in all ways, by how you act, what you say, how you dress, these all contribute to how you are perceived and what becomes your own reality. As they say, "if it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck--there is no question: it's obviously a duck."

Fake it until you make it. A little more about perception, if you act like who you want to be--you will be perceived as that person and in short order actually become the character you have created. If you want to be an artist, do what artists do, paint everyday, act the role, dress the part, go to galleries and people will  perceive you as an artist--talent not withstanding. Perception becomes reality.

Be a good Gatekeeper.  Control your inputs. Some of us only control what we eat and drink but to be a successful gatekeeper, it's more than that. Control what you read, what you watch, what you listen to, where you spend your time, who you spend it with. Good inputs help you, and your environment, bad inputs are destructive, so guard your gates with care.

The greatest reflection of your priorities is your time. It doesn't matter what you say is important to you, the true test is where do you invest your time. If you say your priorities are your family or your health or your business, that statement will only be true if your appointment calendar reflects it.

What appeals to you when you’re alone. When no one’s looking, when the house is empty, when you're alone with your thoughts, when the afternoon is yours alone —where does your mind wander? Your natural wanderings are your touchstone to what’s truly interesting to you and will help focus you on your real dreams.

Most people aren't sure what they want. A lot of good happens when you define what you want. Once you can visualize what you want, put yourself in a position so that your dream can come true.  Talk about your dream and ask others for help in achieving it. When they are realistic, wishes usually do come true. Conversely, be careful what you wish for.

To really know what you think, write it down. When I write something down I find I can edit and rewrite it until I can clarify and clearly say what I actually think about something.

You must vote.  If you don't vote you don't get to complain about who won. And conversely, when you go to the polls, do your homework first. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to make the best choice based on the abilities and standing of the candidates who are running. Too often we have had popularity contests just like in High School. The best looking candidate is usually not the best candidate.

For a satisfactory career, do just what you like. Doing what is expected of you--by parents, spouses and others, instead of following your passion--usually doesn't work out all that well and wastes your time. When you find your passion, you will work harder (and longer) and become more successful than you ever thought reasonable. And if you are following your passion, it's not really work--it's fun.

Once you have found your real career, the money will follow. I thought I wanted to be a publisher and worked at that for almost 20 years. Then I discovered real estate allowed me to work near home and turn clients into friends. I loved walking into a local supermarket and have former clients say "Hi". And the better I got at real estate, the more money I made. I only regret that I didn't find it sooner.

Exercise in some way. I know exercise is good for me, even if I don't do it all that often. I try to find little ways to exercise every day. I take the stairs. I work around the house and yard, and I try to swim a few laps everyday. Is that enough? Probably not.

Risky business is good. Nothing is a sure thing, so take risks. Nerves on edge is really the only way to know that you’re being stretched. If there hasn’t been a moment of  "good stress" in your life for a month, ask yourself if you’re pushing hard enough.

Stress can chew you up. Learn to accept stress in bite-sized pieces. Burn it off with a walk or a drive or just playing with a dog. Dogs are totally non-judgemental, and love you unconditionally. Think of them as the valve on a pressure cooker, they can bleed off the pressure and make you whole again.

Be genuinely curious.  Curiosity ends up being the driving force behind the most interesting people. Find a topic or two that interests you and allow your curiosity to run freely,  follow where your curiosity takes you.

Pay it forward.  I like the concept, and being generous feels good. I say generosity is paid out in emotions, money and time. It doesn't have to only be money. Be a mentor or teacher or a volunteer, give of your time and energy. And be a spouse or a parent and share your love. Being stingy with your time, energy and emotions will comes back to bite you. As the Beatles wrote, "the love you take is equal to the love you make..." You get what you give--I think that's true.

We are really just tiny beings. In the great scheme of things, we are only a collection of atoms in a poorly understood universe that’s probably infinite. Go outside to admire the trees and mountains, watch a sunset or experience a rainbow. At night look up at the moon or the stars. If you are having problems, they will seem pretty insignificant in the context of all of that.

Build (or share) something. Of course society wants big discoveries like a cure for cancer or an anti-gravity machine, but most of us only make small contributions.  Yet even the small stuff is important. Never forget the value of creating something, even if it is small. Even if you just write a letter, share a great recipe, make a painting or snap a photo--and share them. No matter how insignificant your creation, making something feels good. Sharing your creation makes it a gift. Giving a gift feels good. Plus you'll enjoy the personal pride of your creativity.

Most people live lives of quiet desperation. Most jobs are only average. Most people’s work is mediocre. Most products and experiences are mediocre. Most lives drift to mediocre. If you can rise above what's average, everyone will notice. Being above average is usually only a function of showing up on time with enthusiasm. If you can add value to a company, you will be a success. Remember in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

People are afraid to take the blame.  We have somehow raised a whole country full of people who will not stand up and accept the blame they deserve, they'd rather hire a lawyer or deny and flat-out lie. I think owning up even to a bad situation shows character and usually solves the issue. Lying is only a temporary solution, the truth almost always comes back to haunt you.

Don’t be too big for your britches. It’s easy to be passionate about great wine, or hand roasted coffee or truly wonderful food; but don’t be above enjoying a paper cup filled with boxed wine, or a cup of instant coffee or a hot dog.

Don’t get disheartened. Attitude is everything. If you get disheartened, the life you planned for is drifting out of your reach. Don’t ever underestimate the value of enthusiasm. Even when things are going south, and enthusiasm is all you have left, if you really have enthusiasm, you're already on the upswing.

Everyone has a vice. Everyone has a fault-line. Don’t spend too much time searching for it, but just know it will be there and don’t be disappointed when you find it in others, it's a human frailty.  You have frailties too within yourself. Maybe you know your fault line. Try to keep it to yourself and just try to do your best.

Listen to your body. And care for it. It's the box you live in and if you’re not careful, your box will fail--sooner than you think.

Understand the value of time. Life ends up being really short, no matter how long you live. You can recover money, you can rebuild houses, you can re-buy stuff — but you can’t get back time.

One day I will die. Maybe even today. It's as natural as being born, and we will all go through it--nobody escapes this transition. You never know where you are on history’s big wheel. You never know what’s coming for you. You must have faith. Your moment is coming.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Obamacare Taxes and Fees

In Case You Didn't Notice, as of January 1st:

New levies, courtesy of the Affordable Care Act  include an increase on wages and a tax on investment income, including interest, dividends and capital gains.  And bad news for the more affluent  households, those affected will see tax increases averaging $6,000 next year, economists estimate.

To help finance Medicare, employees and employers each used to pay a hospital insurance tax equal to 1.45 percent on all wages. Starting in January, the health care law requires workers to pay an additional tax equal to 0.9 percent of any wages over $200,000 for single taxpayers and $250,000 for married couples filing jointly.

The new taxes on wages and investment income are expected to raise $318 billion over 10 years, or about half of all the new revenue collected under the health care law.

Since the 1930s, payroll taxes have been levied on the wages of each worker as an individual. The new Medicare payroll is different. It will be imposed on the combined earnings of a married couple.

In the Affordable Care Act, the new tax on investment income is called an “unearned income Medicare contribution.” However, the law does not provide for the money to be deposited in a specific trust fund. It is added to the government’s general tax revenues and can be used for education, law enforcement, farm subsidies or other purposes. 

A new 3.8 percent tax applies to the net investment income of certain high-income taxpayers, those with incomes above $200,000 for single taxpayers and $250,000 for couples filing jointly.

The new tax on unearned income would come on top of other tax increases that might occur automatically, the tax rate on long-term capital gains rose to 20 percent in January. Dividends are now treated as ordinary income and taxed at a maximum rate of 39.6 percent, up from the current 15 percent rate for  most dividends.

Under another provision of the health care law, consumers may find it more difficult to obtain a tax break for medical expenses. Taxpayers have been able to take an itemized deduction for unreimbursed medical expenses, to the extent that they exceed 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income. The health care law changes the threshold for most taxpayers to 10 percent next year. The increase is delayed to 2017 for people 65 and older.

In addition, workers face a new $2,500 limit on the amount they can contribute to flexible spending accounts used to pay medical expenses. Such accounts can benefit workers by allowing them to pay out-of-pocket expenses with pretax money.

Taken together, this provision and the change in the medical expense deduction are expected to raise more than $40 billion of revenue over 10 years. 

In summary:
Top Medicare tax went from 1.45% to 2.35%
Top Income tax bracket went from 35% to 39.6%
Top Income payroll tax went from 37.4% to 52.2%
Capital Gains tax went from 15% to 28%
Dividends tax went from 15% to 39.6
Estate tax went from 0% to 55%

While I don't see these taxes and fees affecting the Occupy Wall Street folks,
they certainly affect both young and old people (let's call them folks who don't live in their parents basements, they are mainly people who work for a living and those who are planning for their children's education or maybe their own retirement).

Dane Hahn as a real estate professional serving Florida's Sarasota and Charlotte Counties. You can reach him at dane.hahn@gmail.com

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Communism: Not Welcome Here

I just received this document and thought I'd share it today. Sorry it has little to do with real estate, but everything to do with where you may want to live.

Between 1900 and 2000 over one hundred million people were brutally murdered by communist regimes in search of Utopia. From Lenin and Stalin to Mao Tse Tsung, to Pol Pot in Cambodia and the Brutal Regime of North Korea, the quest to create a perfect society where people accept total state domination has been nothing but bloody.

As a system, Communism demands total and complete obedience to the state--just like ISIS (or as Obama calls them ISIL) and HAMAS; anyone who opposes or stands in the way of progress needs to be eliminated. It's as simple as that.

But bringing a society to the point where they will willingly participate in the slaughter of their own countrymen is not an overnight process. It is a gradual conditioning of the population to get them to believe that some people are not as worthy of life as others.  Today we are witnessing this gradual process unfold before our very eyes, you'll see it on TV every night--even here in the USA.

Gregory Stanton has identified an eight-stage process that generally occurs in the conditioning of a people to prepare them for genocide.  The first step is classification. This simply means classifying people into different groups and intentionally dividing people along ideological lines. (Young vs.Old;  Rich vs. Poor, Black vs. White, Citizens vs. Aliens, Democrats vs. Republicans) Once this is accomplished, stark contrasts can be made between different cultural groups and these differences can be used to incite hatred and create discontent. The job of "boots on the ground" community organizers is essential here because one group of people must be convinced they are being oppressed by another.

In the United States we no longer have the traditional “American Citizen,” who grew up understanding America’s values and the virtues of liberty. Today we have the “hyphenated American” who instead of assimilating into American culture has decided to--and in fact is encouraged to--retain their own culture. This does little more than ensure America’s vast population has no common virtue in which they can unite. The best way to explain this is simply saying, “It's us against them..."

The next stage is known as “symbolization.” This is the process of attaching a negative symbol to ideology of  "them" the targeted group. In the United States today, traditional Americans have been classified as potential terrorists because of their willingness to defend their rights under the Constitution. White males have been classified as being “racist simply for being white”. Once these ideas are established, they are nearly impossible to alter or eradicate. This is especially true when aided by the rabble organizers who are targeted at creating discontent.

The next stage is known as “dehumanization.”  By teaching students that white men are privileged and racist, our elite (liberal) universities are dehumanizing nearly every white male in the country, at least in the eyes of the minorities that whites allegedly oppress. This is why traditional Americans are constantly being called racist for opposing new ideas proposed by the progressive Americans.

Think about the narrative concerning the border. Obama invited Guatamalan children to cross our Southern border--and now opposition to this amnesty agenda has the effect of dehumanizing those who want our existing laws enforced, and the border protected. The same holds true for Christians (in Syria and elsewhere) because they stand in the way of the state’s utopia, therefore they must be discredited and dehumanized in order for them to no longer pose a threat. ISIS has targeted Christians who are already facing extermination at the hands of the Islamofascists.

The next stage is “organization.”  Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals is the organizing bible and teaches minorities that they are oppressed by America’s majorities--a.k.a. evil white men. The story told to emerging nations is that America has the schools, the government agencies, the medical organizations, and the message that America’s rich white men are intentionally keeping them down for financial gain is constant and relentless.

We saw in 2010 the formation of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement. This is a testament to how well the Alinsky rules can organize a political movement. These folks should not be underestimated. The kids from Occupy Wall Street drank the Kool Aid and today would likely follow a charismatic leader on a genocidal march across the land if they believed it would bring about the utopian Promised Land.

The next stage is “polarization.”  There is little doubt that the white man in America is being polarized as over the past number of years we have seen a drastic rise in black on white violence. Black people have been so conditioned to believe that the white man is intentionally keeping him down that violence has become the accepted and justified solution. It must be noted that radical blacks are being used by Alinsky followers to carry out a political agenda. When it is accomplished, they too will be targeted. Some say this is where the US is today, pretty far along, but not quite to the tipping point.

This brings us to the final three stages which are preparation, extermination and denial.”

The genocide would be carried out with the belief that they are doing something for the betterment of mankind. In the end, it’s nothing but the senseless murder of millions. Then, when it is completed, it is denied. To this day there are many people who view the Old Soviet Block as a paradise on Earth and refuse to believe that Lenin and Stalin together, murdered nearly 60 million of their own countrymen.
Whether or not this happens in America is entirely up to us.

You Are Now What You Were Then

What Makes Us, Us?

3. purkinje neurons
We are not born with values, so how do we develop our values? There are 3 periods during which values are developed as we grow. Sociologist Morris Massey has described three major periods during which values are developed.
They are:
  1. The Imprint Period - Age 0 to 7
  2. The Modelling Period - Age 8 to 13
  3. The Socialisation Period - Age 13 to 21
During these periods we develop what many believe to be the 'rudders' of lives; our values. It is our core beliefs that then develop around our values. Beliefs and values have an extremely powerful affect on our lives, because we filter all our information through them and hence develop specific actions as a result, and hence we predetermine our outcomes. Thus if we develop a belief such as "I'm too fat", then our mind begins to only see things that confirm this belief. Bulimia and Anorexia are perfect examples of outcomes from a belief such as the example.

Another example of this is a client who came to our clinic with a belief that she was unattractive. She therefore acted as though she was unattractive. While intelligent, she only went for jobs that she believed were occupied by 'trailer-trash' (her words not mine). While handsome men asked her out on dates, she only went out with men that were unattractive, not consciously, though unconsciously her belief created the outcome. She consciously believed that the attractive men were joking with her. Believing she was unattractive also had her acting unattractively. In 2 sessions we helped her to change her belief after 5 sessions she grew confident enough to divorce her husband who was beating her and she went on an overseas trip on her own. She is now dating attractive men with confidence. Her initial belief was developed at around the age of 6 or 7 when she recalled her father telling her Mother she was ugly. She was also told she looked more like her Mother and therefore believed she was ugly too. Her Father left her Mother which deepened the emotions around the belief.

The Imprint Period

From the day we are born and up until the age of seven, we're like sponges, absorbing everything around us and accepting much of it as true, especially when it comes from our parents. The confusion and blind belief of this period can also lead to the early formation of trauma and other deep neurological problems.
The critical thing here is to learn a sense of right and wrong, good and bad. Here we will often use our feelings or monitor the responses of our parents to determine what is good or bad.

The imprint period is the window of development in which children are all ears. They listen. They see everything and certainly feel the emotion coming from those around them. This is often simply equated to 'Anger' equals 'Bad' and 'Laughter' equals 'Good'. Young children want to know what Mom and Dad think in order to know what they themselves think. Like little ducks, they are eager to line up behind Mum or Dad — accepting without much question of values and beliefs. We must be diligent during this window of opportunity because it passes quickly.
What and how we teach during the imprint period should align with the bent of young children. They love games, stories, songs, memorization and other activities that can be used as powerful tools in the process of teaching them good beliefs and values. 

The most crucial period being from age 2 to 4 when major imprinting occurs. During this period we absorb information without any analysis. So if during this period the child is told they are "bad", they may take this literally without putting it into context. Thus they may think they are a bad person, without taking into account that what was really meant was that their behavior had been deemed bad by a person. Phobias tend to have origins within this period, generally from the years of 3 to 7. (Further events generally just reinforce the original traumatizing event)

The Modeling Period

Between the ages of eight and thirteen, we copy people, that is we 'Model' them. We mostly model our parents, but also other people and particularly people we admire or look up to. Rather than blind acceptance, we are trying on things like suit of clothes, to see how they feel.

We may be impressed with religion or our teachers. You may remember being particularly influenced by Primary School teachers who seemed so knowledgeable,maybe even more so than your parents.
This is when we begin to notice the behavior of friends, family and heroes. The age of ten being highly significant is often when we begin to emulate our heroes. The environment around the person has a powerful effect upon them. It is often said that we become who we most admired at the age of ten.

The Socialization Period

Between 13 and 21, we are very largely influenced by our peers. Here we often form clusters or groups of like-minded or 'like-looking' groups of people. As we develop as individuals and look for ways to get away from the earlier programming, we naturally turn to people who seem more like us.
Other influences at these ages include the media, especially those parts which seem to resonate with our the values of our peer groups.

This is where we develop relationship and social values. After the age of 21 , core values do not change unless a significant emotional event occurs or effective coaching.Normal values change and grow over time.