It’s a cold drizzly Wednesday morning when I roll into my local coffee and breakfast place. There is a small line of people at the counter, so I turn around and grab the local paper that is laying on one of the tables. The caption: “Nation in the grip of crisis perseveres”. It is less than a week after the horrific storm that washed part of Japan away leaving cities devastated and people huddled around make shift outdoor kitchens.
Having had a front row seat for the horrific demolition of the World Trade Center, events like these are quickly put into perspective. In this case my eyes drop to the few sentences typed below the picture that tells more about what had caught my attention. There in at the last sentence the total lives confirmed dead (3,676) and still missing (7,588) jump out at me as if they were highlighted and in bold. World Trade Center death tolls! When the water settles and all the bodies are counted, the Japanese devastation will likely dwarf those numbers. Where do events like this take us as human beings? They make us realize how little control we have over situations such as these.
Here I sit in a nice warm café, sipping Kona coffee, typing on my laptop and overall not having a REAL problem to speak of. I can count on 1 hand the people that I know personally that are having REAL problems (as listed above).
As an advisor, I have become somewhat numb to the “devastation” in people’s lives. The debt that they have gotten themselves into that is all too often “someone else’s fault”. As if, like a hurricane, they had no control over how it happened. They weren’t the person looking at the house or car with their spouse. They didn’t go on the vacations, etc. I don’t buy it! Our life is not a tsunami. We have MUCH more control over what happens in our lives than we care to admit.
Take a minute… ok take 30 minutes and scribble down what you feel that you don’t have control of. Your wife/husband? Your kids? The debt you are in? The lack of finances? Your health? Come on- how many did you want to push back at me, “Mike, I really don’t have control of X”. I have heard them all, “my body type doesn’t lend for me to be the right weight… I am big boned”. How about “Mike my wife spends and just won’t stop”. Does she feel loved? Does she feel that you care about her? Is there other issues going on in her life? Or, “My kids are just tough, they don’t listen to me.” Have you taken control of your house… meaning you don’t have a moving line of what is ok and what isn’t? Or do you regularly cave in? I can hear people say, “Mike you don’t understand…” However, I really do. I know how tough each one of these areas are because I see it both personally and with clients. I also know, that we have much more control over all of these areas than we really want to admit.
I don’t understand how we can continue to turn a blind eye on what we can control, when there is so much devastation in the world where people have NO CONTROL over it. Think deeply today about what you are calling a tsunami or a great flood. And then ask yourself if you really don’t have control over it. If you come back with this nagging feeling that you know you have some level of control, then we are making headway. Most people don’t know where to start, so let me help out:
1. Admit that you could control your tsunami, IF you had the right tools.
2. Take some time today to find the right tools. With the Internet, there is a plethora of information (just be careful whose information you follow). Here are some ideas of “tools”.
Parenting: Love and Logic http://www.loveandlogic.com/
Marriage: Google “marriage and communication” You will find a slew of websites that will give you tips and direction depending upon your faith, stage in your relationship, etc.
Finances: Budgeting http://www.Mint.com
Find an advisor http://www.cambridgeadvisors.com
As a reminder, put a picture of Japan Floods, Hurricane Katrina, or the World Trade Center in your wallet or on your purse. Put it on your bedside or your office desk as a reminder of what you don’t have control of. Lastly, start to build up your tool chest that allows you to take more control of your life. It is when we start seeing what we have control of in our life that we start to feel in control.
Mike Lynch, Principal
Lynch Financial Advisors
Life can be like a walk through the mountains. At times we are able to see the beauty of where we are at; other times we seem lost or even scared. There are those times though that you realize why you are here and that you are so glad to be alive.
Recently I had an experience that was like finding a beautiful waterfall. The family and I went out for a walk to the park. No sooner had my older daughter, Megan, grabbed her bike, than my (at the time) 4 year old, Ciara, asked, “Daddy, can I ride my bike?”
Now she didn’t know how to ride her bike yet, but we have this handle on the back that comes up about 18 inches from behind her seat. Imagine the old days of the banana seat with the back seat bracket that connected to the rear hub (back tire) extending up another 18 inches.
As I was looking for a little more exercise than just walking to the park, I agreed to jog along and stabilize the bike as she rode. As she rode I started to take my hand off the bike lightly and let her “feel” the bike a little more. By the time we had gone a half mile she was able to ride the bike about 20 feet without me holding on. By the time we got to the park she had gone from not being able to ride a bike to riding it 20-40 yards without me having to keep her from crashing.
My wife and I sat on the park bench and talked as our kids played tag at the playground with the other kids. I was anxious the whole time to get heading back, because I wanted to see how far Ciara could make it back without my help. When it finally was time to go, she put on her helmet, grabbed her bike and looked for me to grab the back handle. I got her set straight then just took my hands off. Baring a couple near crashes with a few posts that seemed to jump out in front of her, she rode all the way back to our house (a little over a mile) without much help at all. As I jogged next to her, she kept turning to me say, “Daddy, I am riding my bike and you aren’t helping. Daddy I am riding!”
Waterfalls are powerful, and so are moments like that. They refresh and remind us to be glad to be alive. Isn’t this the truth for these “Daddy” (Mommy, Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle, Auntie, etc.) moments?
That night the family and I went down to our local “Tuesday Night” street fair. They have vendors, food, hot rods, and music. I picked up a hot dog for Ciara and a grabbed a chicken sandwich for myself. We sat ourselves down on the curb next to my wife and other daughters to listen to the music. As a preview to one of the songs the singer was about to sing she told the crowd, “you can have all of the great materialistic things, but just remember that you can’t take it with you. You should live for today.”
Likely I am one of the few people that gets this funny feeling up my spine when I hear that. Maybe it is because I am a financial advisor and I listen to people come into my office and tell me how they can’t afford to retire or they aren’t making enough money, etc. It typically isn’t because they don’t have money; it is because they spend it. And statements like this are at the basis of a lot of poor financial decisions. There are plenty of things we can do that are a great way of living, for example, spending time with your kids and watching them conquer challenges in their life will bring you more joy than a new car will ever. Going to visit your grandkids can lift spirits more than a great meal at a fine restaurant.
There is a balance to life. We can’t take any money with us, but we will leave a mark on the world. Be it with our families, friends, or colleagues. What will your mark be? How will you be remembered? Are you willing to live today like there won’t be a tomorrow, BUT save like it will? Can you, today, plant your feet firmly in the days work, but cast your eyes on tomorrow’s mountains?
Building your life in this fashion will give you more joy than you can imagine. For when you walk into your next valley you will be more prepared for what is there. Are you balancing today’s living, while being aware of tomorrow’s reality? Are you spending money like you will die, or are you living with purpose working on those relationships that will leave a positive mark on the world? Are you challenging yourself to conquer your own mountains as Ciara conquered riding her bike? Today think like a child and realize that if you keep your mind set on something long enough, you too can ride… be prepared to retire, be prepared for college expenses, spend quality time with you family or change your job.