Is your home about to flood?

I like to think my home is well maintained. No leaks, no drips, the faucets all work correctly, the appliances are newer, the toilets have been replaced with water saving ones… I care about my home and so I like to keep up with the maintenance.

So imagine my surprise, when a couple nights ago, I heard the water running. Lots of water. Spraying. Inside the house. What the heck?

I’m really happy that I was home, because if I hadn’t been able to catch it and shut it off, there would have been a flood. A really BAD flood. So what happened?

My house was built in the mid-1980 era, and it has copper wiring, copper plumbing, the usual conveniences. In a copper-piped house, the sink faucets and toilets and such are attached to the water supply using a shut off valve. In the 80’s and 90’s,many of these valves were all one piece, with an attached metal hose than runs from the valve to the toilet (or faucet.) Most, if not all of these are multiple turn valves, ie. you have to turn the valve handle around a bunch of times to get the water to shut off.

Modern examples of the same thing are quarter turn – and while you can get them with an attached hose, most of them are just the valve. The multi-turn valves are prone to leaking, the quarter-turn ones are supposed to be better.

Here’s an example of the old style:


These are multi-turn, and the hose that is attached is a flexible metal. This type of hose is far more durable than the newer rubber hose covered with metal braid – those have a 100% failure rate in certain applications – but that’s not the issue. The issue here is the plastic end:

If you look close, you can see that the plastic end has failed. Here’s a better picture:

Yep, that is what happened a few days ago, and the full pressure from the water line was spraying in the bathroom. Luckily we caught it, and I was off to see homer about new angle stops and hoses for all the toilets in the house. (In my house the connections to all the faucets were metal, not plastic.)

What happens with the plastic is that over time, it ages and dries out. If an over-eager plumber or home owner tightens the plastic up REAL tight, it is stressed, and over the years as it dries out, it will lose strength and fail, which is just what happened. For a toilet, the seal depends on a rubber bushing, so these don’t need to be super tight. I’m sure some over-tightness contributed to the failure.

I replaced all of them with the nice angle stop valves:

And with newer braided lines:

So one end of this is also plastic, but it should last 25-30 years like the last one, right?

So if you are buying an older home, check and see if the angle stops are like the ones in the first picture. If they are, REPLACE THEM.




Time lapse from Foscam webcams


I write on all sorts of subjects, and though I do try to stay in the realm of real estate, as you can see by my last post, I write about other things as well. Last time I wrote about divorce law. Not that it had anything to do with real estate, but one of my marketing efforts landed me some new friends that worked in this field, and I became interested… so I wrote about it.

schedule_20161016-152500My family has a property in a remote area, and for many years we have struggled with internet access. I remember the days of 9600-14400 baud dialup modems, and then we managed to get satellite service, a dramatic improvement but still…

Things started to turn around about 5-6 years ago when the local telephone company offered DSL. We were the very first DSL installation in the area, and we were REALLY happy to have 3 meg down and 400k up. Well, mostly. It was pretty unreliable. It was down for weeks at a time, or so unreliable nothing would work. It was barely possible to watch netflix.

Later, they did upgrade to 5 mb down, but it was still very unreliable, despite much effort by their tech folks to make it better. Portions of the phone line run through a lake, and we are at the far, far end of DSL capability. So it wasn”t great, but better than anything else we had tried.

A few years ago I saw that an area development company was pulling fiber optic cable down the highway, about a quarter mile away. “Wow, it would be so nice to have fiber optic service to our place…” I thought.

After a couple years of schmoozing, we finally inked an agreement a few months ago, and now we have (gasp!) gigabit fiber to our place. Well, the fiber is gigabit, we pay for a much smaller service, because now it is a leased line, and if you ever priced one, well, they are expensive. The nice part is that the bandwidth is not shared, it is ALL yours, with a leased line. Oh, and you have to additionally pay a service provider to give you internet service.

When we got everything working last month, I was eager to add an HD webcam to the mix. My other cameras were installed more than 8 years ago, and they are still working! These were the old Trendnet TV-IP100 cameras with a CMOS sensor. You can check out the web page at

These cameras, the old Trendnet ones, can be configured to upload an image every X seconds, and they will dutifully upload it via ftp to a server of your choice; they also can be configured to upload only a certain number of images, and then roll over to the next image. They create PIC001.jpg, PIC002.jpg, etc. to whatever number you set, then roll over.

After implementing these cameras, I wanted to see a time lapse – so my friend Matt wrote a little animator script that steps through the images from oldest to newest, and shows a little movie. Unlike many webcam web pages that periodically create a time lapse for you, this creates onscreen-shot-2016-10-17-at-3-12-21-pme with the very latest images. The Trendnet cameras are configured to store I think 60 images, or about 5 hours of animation. If you want a copy of the Trendnet animator, let me know, but the Foscam one is more what you want. The directory structure from the Trendnet cameras looks like this:

The Foscam web cams can also be configured to upload images, but they don”t roll over or limit the number of uploaded images or anything like that, and the names don”t repeat, the image name is a timestamp. So it takes a little unix prowess to get a time lapse to work and behave well.

First, you configure the camera to upload an image from time to time. Mine are set for once every 5 minutes. The files are uploaded into a directory, and end up looking like the second directory image here.

r\nscreen-shot-2016-10-17-at-3-10-17-pmNow, that isn”t the most exciting thing, but you get the idea. These are the files we need to deal with. With the first set, the file names follow a set of repeating rules, so it is pretty easy to write a script to display each one in sequence. With the second set, it is slightly more interesting.

First, we need to limit the number of uploaded files. I wrote a shell script that scans the directory and deletes anything older than a day. So it keeps 24 hours worth of files, and it is run by cron every hour. I also have the cameras set by schedule to not upload anything between about 7PM and 6AM since it is dark. The script to delete older files is very simple:

 find . -iname ”*.jpg” -mtime +0 -exec rm {} \\;

You will want to replace the “.” with your fully qualified directory name since it will be run from cron. You can also control the age of files you want to delete with the argument after mtime.  Your crontab entry will be something like 0 * * * *, which would run your script on the hour each hour.

The next thing we want to do, is to stash the latest uploaded file into a specific filename. Most webcam services like this – it isn”t needed if you aren”t going to submit your camera to a webcam service, but it is easy to do, and again, I let cron run it every hour so the oldest photo is an hour old. The script for this one is a little more complex, note the direction of the quotes.

cp `ls -t -1 ./S*.jpg | sed ”1q”` new.jpg

So this says, first do an ”ls” command looking for files that start with S and end with .jpg (the Foscams upload a file like Schedule_xxxxxxx-xxxxxx.jpg so I use the S, so the script doesn”t match ”new.jpg” since it has no ”S” in it); The ls command sorts them by time and on a one per line basis. This is piped into sed which is told to return only the 1st line and exit. This (ls piped into sed) is within back quotes which tells the shell to execute the command inside the quotes and insert the output into the command line before doing anything else. The rest is just a copy command. So essentially this line gets the latest image uploaded by the camera and copies it into ”new.jpg”. If you have cron run this periodically, new.jpg will always have a most recent webcam picture in it.

nAgain, since cron is running this script you will want to fully qualify the directory/file names.

The other thing that I do with cron is to run another script, just like this one, just after noon every day and stash the latest file into a ”daily” directory so that I can do a monthly or longer term time lapse of the same image at the same time each day to see how it changes over the year. I just set that up, so I only have a couple days worth of data.

If you want to see the nice daily HD animation from the Foscam, click this image:


Following is a copy of the animator source, if you want to try it. It is in zip format. It was a bit long and esoteric to insert into the post.


Enjoy animating your Foscams!


A Different Take on Divorce – Collaboration

Today my post is a bit off track, but let me share with you the winding path that brought the information to my attention. It is my hope that at least one person reading this will benefit from it.

Back in the heydays of short sales, I handled lots of these underwater homes. I think I set records for the size and number of faxes I sent (because, you know, banks are not comfortable with email). They were a mainstay of my real estate business. And with my interest in counseling (Read all my Tony Robbins related posts) I was always talking with these folks, working with them to understand what was going on, trying to make the short selling experience as painless as I could.Lastova

And, I remain friends with most of my clients, and watched divorces happen or not happen, and then of course we all have friends who also went through some hard times in terms of a relationship. What a horrible thing to have to experience, surely there must be a better way than the typical war of attorneys that results? In a few cases I did see amicable settlements, but mostly it was war.

In my real estate marketing, I have been trolling for business from estate attorneys, financial planners, and a few months ago I started contacting some divorce attorneys to see if I could provide them with service. Through this process, I met Debbie Weecks, who is, among other things, a family law practitioner. She also served for 13 years as a volunteer on the Habitat for Humanity’s Family Selection Committee, and has numerous other accolades. You can check out her website here.

When I talked with her on the phone, she was kind enough to invite me to a CE class with a number of other family law practitioners and counselors and other interesting people, as an opportunity to meet my target audience, and she thought I might be interested in the subject matter. And I was! This was a CE class all about something relatively new to Arizona, Collaborative Family Law. This is a process by which the traditional war of the parties, via their attorneys, is replaced by a collaborative process.

A typical divorce involves the courts, a formal discovery process, gaggles of separate experts, lots of fighting and acrimony, and ultimately the court makes a decision which is sure to annoy everyone involved. A collaborative dissolution, on the other hand, does not involve the courts, disclosure is voluntary (though mandated when you decide to use this process), experts are mutually hired (rather than theirs and mine), and the parties decide the outcome together.

It sounds like it could be really, really difficult to come to a mutual outcome; though I have never done it, I’m betting it isn’t as hard as going through the regular war. Here’s a little better description of it, from

Divorce: the Only Moral Choice is the Collaborative Model

Statistics show that marriage is losing popularity and many couples are opting for divorce. Generations ago, divorce was perceived with stigma and while that perspective has improved, divorce is still frequently regarded as the launch into the fight of one’s life. Maybe this is one reason people are opting out of marriage altogether. Maybe marriage wouldn’t be losing ground if divorcing people began to choose a divorce that is moral and honorable in its approach.

I believe it is the responsibility of every citizen who is considering divorce to opt for a Collaborative Divorce. This choice represents a moral and ethical decision for the integrity of our society. To divorce collaboratively states that the needs of the children and their transitioning family context deserve to be treated with respect, care, loving kindness…and nothing less. This needs to become a core value for every divorcing family because the family is the foundation for our society at large.

Collaborative Divorce is a means for uncoupling that utilizes an interdisciplinary team of professionals; each trained and skilled in providing resolution and closure to the legal, emotional and financial dimension inherent in every divorce. The divorcing couple is cocooned within the safety net of their professional team and become empowered to respectfully gather and share necessary information,; brainstorm all the possible options in transitioning their assets and debts; and, respectfully make agreements each can live with as they move forward in a two-household family. They work together with their team to listen to the voice of their kids and hold their children’s concerns at the forefront.

I have been practicing in this model for more than a decade and I am pretty passionate about the notion that our society needs to move into an honorable point of view that Collaborative Divorce is organically the only way for a family to make a life-altering transition that truly serves the greater good.

If you or someone you know is considering a divorce, please learn more about Collaborative Divorce and take the high-minded path for the good of the family and for the good of society. It is your moral responsibility to do so. If you are a divorce professional (legal, mental health, or financial), please take a Collaborative Divorce Full Team Training.

I was impressed with the people I met at the CE class, and the material was fascinating to me. It was really for attorneys, though, so I won’t be getting any real estate continuing education credit for it.


2016 Financial Outlook

I was at a meeting last night where a very smart man talked about what he had predicted for last year (I was at that one also) and he was correct. His predictions for 2016 were interesting.

What was particularly interesting is that the numbers we get from the government – about almost everything – are just wrong. One example is the job gains numbers. They reported something like 130k new jobs in January, seasonally adjusted. What they don’t say is that the seasonal adjustment was 1.3 MILLION or something like that. Because they expect all the part time holiday jobs to drop off, they don’t want to count these, so they add them into the number. I don’t know about you, but when the adjustment is 10x bigger than the actual signal, there is a problem.

Another one is how the government measures GDP. It is just silly. Suppose you have a house, and you borrow 100k against it. Now you have 100k, right? That’s growth, right? Um, no, because you have to pay it back and more; but the government counts that as growth. So rather than GDP, look at GDP MINUS borrowing and a more real picture of the economy emerges. This number tracks with national power consumption (electricity). In economies that report real numbers, electricity usage tracks GDP.

Another measure of GDP is watching Caterpillar. This is more of a global measure, because CAT sends heavy equipment all over the world to build stuff. When CAT is suffering, the world economy is slow.

Lots of economists say that low oil prices are a good thing. First, the lost jobs from it are very high paying – 100k-200k type jobs. These are gone at current oil prices. And the shale producers took on lots of debt to make their companies work. And so now they are pumping oil at a loss because they have to make their loan payments, trying to stretch the cycle until prices come back.

What about the average consumer? If you make 50k and 4k of it was fuel, and now 2k of it is fuel due to lower gas prices, that’s 2k that goes back into the economy, right? No, because mostly people are using that money to pay off debt.

What about the stock market? Government meddling has caused a dangerous and artificial bubble there, too: There is a law about CEO compensation. But this compensation does not include stock holdings, grants, and options. So if 2/3 of a CEO’s pay is in stock, then they are strongly motivated to keep prices high. How do they do this? (IBM is a prime offender) They borrow money to buy back the stock. When there are fewer shares, earnings per share go up. Wall street tracks this as an important number. What they don’t track is debt to equity, which is going the wrong way. If you look at when these purchases occur, you would think that they happen when the stock is cheap, right? That would be the fiscally responsible time to do it. But, no, they do it when the stock is high, right before earnings are announced. Since they can’t do buybacks during earnings season, we see these stocks take a hit right after earnings because the buybacks stop.

So we are probably in for a flat to lower stock market this year, with some significant drops. Interest rates will stay low, and banks may soon offer to hold your money for a fee. And they are looking at strong incentives to get you to invest your IRA or 401K in treasuries, to make the balance sheet work. They might make it a requirement, if the market crashes, but more likely they will offer a 3-4% guaranteed return and exit tax free which would get lots of people to park their funds there.

The elephant in the room is what happens if/when the dollar loses reserve currency status. If this happens the standard of living in the USA will fall 25-50% and it will be really ugly. So they will work hard to prevent this. This is why we are such good friends with Saudi Arabia. They still price oil in dollars. If the House of Saud falls, this would likely change. The Euro is being used for trade lots lately, but it is likely that it (the Euro) will fail as a currency in the next 5 years. The EU compact makes it so people can move between nations freely. The refugee crisis is causing many EU nations to close their borders; it is another nail in the coffin of the EU. EU nations are failing under socialist policies, the national health care in some countries is now failing, many nations have a year wait to be seen if you have cancer and the people are revolting.

It will be an interesting few years. There will likely be another MASSIVE round of quantitative easing to prop things up. That and the IRA takeover should buy us another 10-15 years before the Rally Big Crash comes.

Worldwide debt is unsustainable. It isn’t just the USA, it is a worldwide problem. And at some point all the debt has to get unwound. It won’t be pretty. All the politicians just continue to kick the can down the road, keep the fantasy alive for another 4 years.

That’s a summary of the talk last night…. Sweet dreams!


What makes some people more successful than others?

What makes some people more successful than others?

This is a question I have been asking lately. I have some friends who are very, very successful, and some other friends who are, well, let’s just say that they could be doing better. I have had long talks with people I respect, wondering about what things are innate and what things are learned, or are a result of a decision we have made in our past.

Some things, like sexuality, for example, seem to be innate. If you talk with a preschool teacher, they can tell you that there are some boys that act more like girls, and some girls who act more like boys, even when they are two or three years old. And, some things are genetic. As a rule, Asians are better at math than most people, when you look at larger groups. Blacks dominate the NBA. Whites are good at chess. So some things are innate, genetic, or learned –

A very smart person who deals with change all the time tells me that even innate stuff can be changed, because if we want it bad enough, we can get our genes to express themselves in a way that supports what we want.(I always wanted to be a world class gymnast but I didn’t start until I was 30, I’m not what you might call skinny or light, and I’m 6’2″ tall so this goal seems unlikely, but still, I did get pretty darn good at it)

In the never ending journey to learn more stuff, I was reading Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence. This is a book that discusses why our emotional intelligence is probably more important than our intelligence quotient. The book is a wonderful read, though a little heavy at times, but brings up studies that are really interesting. One of them is the Marshmallow study that was done with some four year olds in the 1960s by Walter Mischel at Standford. I won’t quote the whole thing, but here is the setup and some pertinent results:

“Just imagine you’re four years old, and someone makes the following proposal: If you’ll wait until after he runs an errand, you can have two marshmallows for a treat. If you can’t wait until then, you can have only one—but you can have it right now. It is a challenge sure to try the soul of any four-year-old, a microcosm of the eternal battle between impulse and restraint, id and ego, desire and self-control, gratification and delay. Which of these choices a child makes is a telling test; it offers a quick reading not just of character, but of the trajectory that child will probably take through life. ”

MarshRoughly a third of the four year olds were able to delay their gratification so that they could get two marshmallows. And one third grabbed the marshmallow as soon as the researcher had left the room. What happened to these two groups later in life? The kids were tracked and assessed some twelve or so years later:

“Those who had resisted temptation at four were now, as adolescents, more socially competent: personally effective, self-assertive, and better able to cope with the frustrations of life. They were less likely to go to pieces, freeze, or regress under stress, or become rattled and disorganized when pressured; they embraced challenges and pursued them instead of giving up even in the face of difficulties; they were self-reliant and confident, trustworthy and dependable; and they took initiative and plunged into projects. And, more than a decade later, they were still able to delay gratification in pursuit of their goals. The third or so who grabbed for the marshmallow, however, tended to have fewer of these qualities, and shared instead a relatively more troubled psychological portrait. In adolescence they were more likely to be seen as shying away from social contacts; to be stubborn and indecisive; to be easily upset by frustrations; to think of themselves as “bad” or unworthy; to regress or become immobilized by stress; to be mistrustful and resentful about not “getting enough”; to be prone to jealousy and envy; to overreact to irritations with a sharp temper, so provoking arguments and fights. And, after all those years, they still were unable to put off gratification.”

As these kids finished high school, the ones who could delay gratification had dramatically higher SAT scores. The author concludes that how children perform on their gratification test is a much more powerful predictor of of their SAT scores and general success than IQ. Poor impulse control is also a good predictor of delinquency.

Psychologists generally agree that IQ does not change throughout life; but there is strong evidence (read the book!) that we can change our EQ.

Goleman talks about other things that make up our EQ, too. Such as hope, anger, fear, anxiety, optimism, and a host of other emotions. How strongly we value different emotions is a great predictor of success. Another study in the book was about insurance salesmen. A particular company tested people and was hiring new salesmen based on the profile their existing top producers shared.

Another researcher convinced the company to hire a group of new salespeople, generally unskilled (compared to the other hires) but based their employment on how strongly they scored on a test of optimism. In the first year, the “optimistic” salesmen outsold the others by almost 50%. In the second year, it was by far, far more.

If you have followed this blog much, you know I like what Tony Robbins teaches. He teaches stuff just like this. He teaches us how we can intentionally control our emotional states. One of my more recent posts (The One Decision) is about deciding to live in a beautiful state. If aspects of this state include hope, optimism, gratitude, delayed gratification, and other strong predictors of performance, what will your life be like if you choose to embrace them? Given two professionals you can hire to do a job, will you hire the happy, optimistic one that wants to think about how best to solve the problem, or the one with the black cloud over their head, who never has time, gripes about things, and shows up to do the job and wants payment up front?

Sure, it is a concocted example — and in my industry (Real Estate) I have met both kinds, and many of each! Can you guess which ones I am most likely to hope is on the other side of a transaction? If you are single (this is something I learned the hard way many years ago) what’s the best way to act to get a date? Needy? Happy? Confident? It is our emotional nature which gets us where we want to go. Given two people with similar capabilities and intelligence, the one with the stronger control of their emotions is the most likely to succeed.

Yes, sorry, another post not really about real estate. I’ll be getting back to that in the future.




Devil’s in the Details

Members of the Satanic Temple in Phoenix are scheduled to deliver the invocation at the Feb. 17, 2016 Phoenix City Council meeting. It’s probably just intended to stir up a lawsuit, as a sort of “poison pill,” having the intended ultimate impact of banning all prayer/invocations at the outset of future council proceedings. Councilpersons will be at loggerheads over this item.

It’s both a puzzling and a comedic moment. It’s puzzling because a city can, though it should not and will not (except in Colorado City), establish a religion. The U.S. Constitution’s first amendment (Establishment Clause) doesn’t permit Congress to pass any law establishing religion. While Satanists can exercise their right of free speech, for instance during the “call to the public” portion of the council meetings, they have little basis to claim that Satanism is a religion. The Church of Satan itself, however, says worshiping Satan isn’t what they’re doing; it’s mission statement stresses that they don’t believe in a literal Satan. Instead, Satan is used as a metaphor to represent their belief in the power of fantasy. I enjoy the occasional fantasy, but I don’t understand how that elevates Satanism to religion, unless secular humanism or “the Dark Side” are religions, also. If the latter is, we should hear from Darth Vader/Maul at the public podium in the Council chambers before long.

If Satanists are not worshipping anything except fantasy, theirs would not seem to qualify as a religion in any faith-related sense. Still, in American Humanist Association v. United States, a federal district court in Oregon in 2014 ruled: “The court finds that Secular Humanism is a religion for Establishment Clause purposes.” But, this is not a first amendment rights or religion blog, so there’s little point in debating that conclusion here.

I wonder if the City Manager’s Office vetted (not censored, but previewed) what the Satanic Temple’s underpinnings of its invocation will be? Since Lucifer in the Bible despises God’s love for humankind, it seems Satan doesn’t wish us well. Will the Templars spokesperson’s invocation curse the Council Members? More than likely, the Templars’ invocation will be political in tone. According to the group’s website, its mission “is to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense and justice, and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by the individual will.” Perhaps the invocation will invite the Council to stop suppressing individual rights through its actions. What is likely is that this moment will turn into a circus. The opposite of one moment of reflection.

Your Primary Question

imagesOne of the things I learned from Tony Robbins (yes, another Robbins post…) is that we all ask ourselves a question. It is a question we ask all the time. We ask it so often, that we don’t even realize we are asking it. Tony calls it our Primary Question. I have come to believe that this question shapes our destiny more than anything else we do. This is because our destiny, our future, is shaped by the decisions we make each day. If you want to reach the mountain, then if each step you take moves you a little closer, one day you will reach it.

So it is with our Primary Question. If there is a question we ask ourselves constantly, in every situation, then one of two things will happen: We will either develop an awesome skill set for answering that question, or we will do something that takes us closer to the answer. Failing either of those, the nature of a Primary Question is that we will be unhappy. Really unhappy.

My Question used to be, how can I fix it? And this was a great question for learning how everything works, how things can be repaired, and it made my life, my happiness, about fixing things. So in my earlier career as a software engineer, I was an excellent diagnostician. I could always figure out why something was not behaving correctly. And I was well rewarded for this skill set, and fixing things made me happy.

It had its drawbacks, of course, because I looked for what was broken in everything. I could walk in a room and in one minute I knew where each burned out light bulb was located, where every misaligned air vent was, … you get the picture. I didn’t notice too much about people, but lots about the room, the furniture, etc. So someone would ask me, “did you see that guy with the…” and I had to answer no, was he the guy sitting by the lamp with the hole in the shade?

My wife’s Question has been, and is, “How can I help?” and, she is one of the most giving people I have ever met (you would have to be, to put up with me!) Her Question has served her very well.

How can you tell if you have identified your Question? First, it resonates with you. It feels right. Ask yourself, what happens if I can’t fulfill my Question? For me, if there was something broken, and I couldn’t fix it, I was profoundly sad. It was a failing. It was as if my life was almost meaningless. I failed. Yes, the feeling is this strong, if you really figure out your Question. I’ve had similar discussions with many, many people, and they all agree that this is the strength of their Primary Question.

So if it is this powerful, of course it can shape your destiny!

One of the things I enjoy about learning from Robbins is that he provides actionable information. Most people (me included) get teaching from reading, or from going to church, or other means. My church experiences have been that the preachers tell us what we need to be doing (ie. Love God, Love People, repent, be forgiving, …) but they rarely provide actionable information on how to do these things. Today at church there was a little flyer on the seats, and one of the things we were supposed to do, was to be loving. That’s a great idea, but how do I do that? How do I remember to do that? How do I, in the moment of being cut off in traffic by a hot dog on a motorcycle, decide to be loving or kind, or give the benefit of the doubt?

Another thing we are supposed to do, and I regularly pray for this, is to allow God to guide us in our lives so that His plans are our plans, so that we do what he has ordained for our lives. This is hard, at least for me, because I was never a good listener, even to other people, how am I supposed to hear what He is telling me, when it isn’t like he sends emails or texts me…. How do I make it so each step I take brings me closer to that mountain, or those mountains?

It’s the Primary Question. Robbins teaches us how to remove or reduce to obscurity our current Question, and how to design a new Question that will serve us better, and be a better guide to the destiny we want. At one of his events, after discovering our Questions, we go through a process to scramble the old one, and another to start the process of embedding the new one in our psyche.

aTeogXn6cI have had several Questions in my life now, and only the first one and the most recent one have really stuck. The first, “How can I fix it?” was there from before I was conscious, I think, and the need it served was for love. I knew that if I could fix things, people would see value in that and would love me for it. (I still don’t get that internet meme about “If you ask a man to fix something he will eventually do it, there is no need to remind him every 6 months…”) So my new question would have to honor this idea somehow. I also really desire to have a guided life, and as I look back at where I have been and what happened in my life, I know I have been guided in many ways, but I want that to be stronger – I want to serve God’s purpose in the best way I can. Maybe lots of us think about this, and say it, but how do we really do it? I work in Real Estate and do some related coaching, and while I do these things, what is it that I need to do so that I know I am guided in my path?

At a recent Robbins event, we (the event leadership) stood in the crowd to be available to help people who were struggling or needing help. My “fixing it” mentality never really ran to people, so I would hang out and try to look for people in distress that needed something, but unless someone had been beating me with a large stick so I could see what was happening, I usually didn’t get it. Then, at this event, this other leadership person said casually, “During the process I was out in the crowd and I just asked God to show me the people who needed my help the most…”

This was a revealing moment for me, and helped me in writing my new Question. This person automatically was assuming that God was with her, that she was guided, and that she would get an immediate answer; and indeed, she is relatively new but has impacted more people, in her short time, than I have in the years I have been serving with the organization.

So what’s my new question? Combining all this stuff, I ask myself, now, every day, in almost every moment, “How can I experience even more love and divine guidance in this moment?”

This is a much, much more powerful Question than “How can I fix it?” and it has already caused some changes in my life. I’m not constantly looking for things to fix (though I do still like doing that), and I’m not constantly searching for what I am supposed to be doing – because I am confident that I am _already_ guided and I’m just looking to tune that up a little. Similarly, I don’t have to fix things because I know I am loved, and am just looking for more. My old Question presumed that everything was broken, and that I needed to fix everything. My new one presumes that I am loved and guided. It is liberating.

Further, I know that one way to experience more love is to give it – to love more, myself. And indeed, this change has impacted my life already, in small everyday ways. I’m reminded of what a famous sage recently said:

“…believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay… small acts of kindness and love.”

This directly impacted me recently, when I was waiting to check out at a grocery store, the lines were long, and it seemed like ours was particularly slow. I initially started to look for the problem, the root cause of the slowness, because, you know, I had to “fix” it. And then something strange happened. As we got up to the checker, I added a snickers bar to the pile of items we were buying, and after paying, gave it to the checker. At this point my wife was looking at me like I had grown an extra head, and I had to stop and ask myself why I had done that. It wasn’t in character for me, in any way. And – it was clearly my new Primary Question at work. How cool is that!

So what’s your Primary Question? A business partner who attended the event once, told me his Question was “Why Live?” another person’s was “What else do I need to know?” Yet another, “Is this going to be fun?”

These people’s lives were pretty good reflections of their Questions – once you see their Question, you know how they are likely to act, or what they are likely to be thinking about, in a given situation. The “Why Live” person really had no compelling future and made some drastic changes in his life. I don’t know what his new Question is, but I know it is far more empowering. My friend who wants to know “What else” they need to know, is brutally competent, and does her job better than just about anyone. No surprise. The person who wanted to have fun – She would bail on commitments as soon as they weren’t fun anymore.

Our Primary Questions are powerful, and shape our Destiny. How do you want your destiny shaped?



More about suffering – and how to avoid it

At the end of last year, I posted my thoughts from the most recent Tony Robbins seminar I attended. One of the wonderful people who also volunteers to help people at these events, has an even better writeup of Tony’s thoughts about suffering. Thanks to Heidi Bass. She wrote this for her Peak Strategy Mastermind group.


So one of the things I was pondering today is Tony Robbins teaching on why people are miserable, worry, and suffer vs. live in peace, joy, and gratitude. Why miserable people feel drawn to blame and talk about what’s wrong with other people and their lives, whereas grateful people talk about their dreams, desires, goals, and finding the gift and discovering growth through life’s challenges and problems. Problems and challenges we face are gifts that shape who we are. If we have no problems or I prefer to call them challenges as they can be overcome, we have no growth, we stagnate and die. If we blame others for what’s bad in our lives, then we also need to blame those same people for what’s good.

People are miserable, suffer, and worry when they focus on what is wrong in their lives as opposed to what is right. We suffer when we focus inward, solely on ourselves, it is all about us and what happens to us. We become victims of our circumstances and other people instead of agents of change. We harbor bitterness, unforgiveness, and sink deeper into discouragement and disappointment. Life is too short to suffer and worry all the time. Unforgiveness and bitterness only destroys us, eating away at our happiness and peace, it does nothing to the other person it is directed towards. Worry, never changes a situation, It is wasted energy, causing stress, eating away at our peace, and fact is 99% of what we worry about never comes to pass. Fear is (F)alse
(E)xpectations (A)ppearing (R)eal.

So we have to come to a decision–life is too short to suffer, worry is wasted energy, and you can’t suffer, be miserable, and worry when you are in a grateful, beautiful state. Only we can free ourselves from a miserable suffering state, there is no suffering except the suffering we induce. Being obsessed with ourselves instead of outwardly focused on love, growth, contribution, gratitude, leads to suffering.

In order to suffer/worry you have to focus solely on–
1. what’s wrong
2. what’s missing
3. what did we lose or never have.

Suffering usually comes from focusing on the past, versus believing in a compelling future.

So what’s the answer or antidote to suffering–make a decision today to live in a place of:
1. appreciation, enjoyment delight
2. looking for opportunities to learn and grow
3. finding something or someone to love and be grateful for

Suffering ends when we make a decision to delight in the process and find gratitude in the gift–no matter what the circumstances.

Suffering ends when we change our expectations to appreciation, we decide life happens for us, not to us, life is a gift–no matter what, and we chose to find the good in all people and love/forgive others in spite of negative experiences or bad behavior.

So here’s a challenge or resolve you can make to change your focus and choose to have a beautiful state no matter what–ask yourself daily–what are three things you are grateful for today? As you focus on these three things, put your hand on your heart and just say out loud for one minute–I’m sorry, I love you, please forgive me, thank you over and over again. Breathe deep and keep focusing on taking in the gratitude into your heart as you’re releasing forgiveness to others, yourself, and even God for things not going the way you had hoped or planned for your life!

This is a great way to start your day off right! You may be surprised how much more peace and joy you feel as you go through your day, how little you worry or feel fear, and how things that would have bothered you in the past, just seem like insignificant small stuff today!

As things come up–challenging your peace and joy–make a decision to find the gift or growth opportunity in the moment, and if you find yourself slipping into a place of worry, suffering, or fear–look up at the ceiling with a huge grin on your face and laugh at your circumstances it is impossible to worry or suffer in this state.

Finally, if all else fails–put on some wild and crazy music and dance for three minutes like there is no tomorrow!!!

The One Decision

As many of my readers know, I volunteer a substantial amount of my time – up to a month each year – in support of various seminars put on by Tony Robbins. I don’t do it for the money, because, well, it isn’t a paying gig. I do it for my own personal growth opportunities, but more because I see what an amazing difference his seminars make in people’s lives. I have seen him perform many suicide interventions, and even done a couple myself. I have seen him save relationships that were on the ropes, businesses that were struggling, and people with issues in their pasts affecting their lives today.

This year (December 2015) at Date With Destiny, Robbins introduced some new material, and I thought you might enjoy hearing about it. If you make the One Decision, this simple process can dramatically improve the quality of your life and relationships. I hope you find it as valuable as I did.

Robbins started out by asking us to remember a time when we had a truly magnificent experience; a time in our lives when things were going extremely well, or just an instant, a moment, when we were really happy. Once we had an event in mind, he asked us to write down the emotions we were feeling at the time, and a tiny bit of the circumstance surrounding the event. After doing two or three of these, he then asked us (as painful as it sounds) to recall an event that was the opposite – a time when things were really bad. Some folks, as you might guess, had some awful things happen in their pasts. These are usually easier to recall than the magnificent times, unfortunately. Again, he asked us to write down what we were feeling at the time.

The interesting observation that he made was, for most of us, the magnificent events were about a group, about “we”, not about “I”. We were there, but most often the magnificence was about being with, or celebrating with, or contributing to others. Doing something for ourselves and others. And the crappy times were almost exclusively about “me” or “I”. That’s not the whole point of the exercise, but it is a part of it, and an interesting observation. Robbins maintains that to be truly happy we must be contributing to something larger than ourselves, whether it is in our businesses, our lives, or our relationships. Being self-centered or selfish doesn’t work, and we all know that. But it runs deep! I know one of my magnificent times was when I was able to do something nice for a friend of mine who could basically have anything he wanted – I found something I knew he would enjoy, and put it together for him. My joy came from watching him enjoy himself. And, that’s how my relationships work, too. I derive pleasure and satisfaction from helping others; it is just how I am wired; and I think it is how many of us are wired.

Robbins says that we can make a decision, choose to be in a magnificent state all the time. As with anything, it is not simple, and repeated practice makes it permanent. You don’t go to the gym one time and have a great workout, and then expect to be in shape the rest of your life; it is the constant training of the muscles (or the mind, or our emotions) that lead to a great physique, mental acumen, or emotional strength. Growing up I admired Mr. Spock from Star Trek, somehow being emotionless seemed cool. Robbins teaches that emotions are everything – everything that is important about being human, anyway – and I think he is right. I have been going to his events as a volunteer for the better part of 10 years, and the emotional development has been a large part of my growth path. Not just in understanding them, but in controlling them – we get to choose how we feel in a given moment – we get to choose how we respond, and how we feel about, events that happen to us in life. This is perhaps the most important thing he teaches. And yes, it is difficult at first, because all our lives, most of us just respond to events without thinking about them. Even those of us with appropriate training and practice still struggle at times, to make ourselves feel something constructive rather than destructive, when a challenging event occurs.

Robbins says there are just three things that cause suffering: Loss – Loss of the fulfillment of our needs; Less – Less fulfillment; and Never. The belief that because of this event, you will _never_ be able to … or because of this, now I will _never_ …

And we can be creators of our lives rather than managers of our circumstances. Which are you? This particular statement was particularly on point for me this year, because I have been struggling with an NLP concept wherein we are called to be “at cause” rather than “at effect”. (In fact I wrote this down as one of my outcomes at the event this year – to figure this out – How interesting that Robbins addressed it directly!) Do we work at the cause of our lives, or at the effect of the stuff going on around us? If we are at Effect, or busy managing our circumstances, then we are not living the meaningful lives we could be living. If we create our destiny, if we operate mostly at the cause of our lives, then we can have a more powerful and pleasant existence. If we choose, in each moment, to live in a magnificent state, we will make better decisions, in everything. Stock traders who have a happier home life make better trading decisions. (You could argue that because they make better trading decisions they have a happier home life, but the two tend to feed on each other anyway, and studies have shown that it is the happiness that causes the results, and not the other way around, at least initially.)

Robbins talks about the Science of Achievement and the Art of Fulfillment. Achievement requires a laser focus, taking massive action, effective execution, and grace. (Grace – There is a bit of being in the right place at the right time, call it what you want.) But fulfillment is an art. We need to figure out how we each individually feel fulfilled. Robbins devotes his entire 6 day Date With Destiny to helping people discover this. Figuring out what you felt during a magnificent experience is a great start; there are lots of ways you can recall those feelings, and own them. Relive the event, relive other events, just decide to think the way you were thinking then — there are many ways. So first, find a way to reach those feelings and anchor them in. [Google NLP Anchor to learn about how to connect a specific physiological trigger with an emotional state — very useful but beyond what I want to talk about here]. Once you have a way to access these magnificent emotions, use it! Set a timer, if you must. One thing I have done in the past, is I had an issue with my posture, with how I carried myself. So I spent quite a bit of time making myself stand up straight, shoulders back, hands not in my pockets (!!) and then I would catch myself reverting back to a crappy physiology. So I decided that every time I walked through a doorway, any doorway, I would do a “physiology check”. It is natural now, and I don’t even think about it. It was odd, for awhile, because I would visibly change as I walked through a door, or even part of a hallway that went from one area to another that had an indentation that looked like a door.

We can do the exact same thing with the magnificent state. Find something you do all the time, and add that state to it. Whether it is taking a sip of water, or standing up from your desk or a chair, or even taking a deep breath – associate all the magnificent emotions with a simple action you do all the time, and in short order, you will be in a magnificent state most of the time, if not all the time. Sure, we slip, things happen, and when they do, we can stop for a moment and choose how to react to them. We still may become disappointed, or sad, or something else, for a moment, but we can choose to immediately go back to that magnificent state.

This is the One Decision we can make. We can choose to live life in a magnificent state. We will attract a better class of friend, we will be more trusted, we will be better negotiators, we will make better decisions. I made a commitment to do this, right then when I heard Robbins talk about the One Decision.

Will you join me?


Merry Christmas, Patricia Ann

My part of the zoning hearings on the 22nd started later than usual because I had a conflict with an early case. I arrived at City Hall a bit later than normal, giving me some time to observe the hearing process as another citizen in the crowd. It only took a minute to identify the person who was out of place. She had filled out a citizens’ speaker card I found later in a pile, but that wasn’t what gave her away. The room was comfortable enough, yet she wore a knit hat and a scarf; she kept on her overcoat, unbuttoned. Understandably – by Phoenix standards, it was a raw morning outside. This likely was her winter uniform.

As each zoning relief case on the agenda was heard, she raised her hand and, when acknowledged by the hearing officer, spoke calmly from her seat without rising and “approaching” to use the speakers’ lectern stand, the City’s policy for public hearings. She had a question or two on each case. Her questions were understandable but irrelevant to land use determinations. She was, by Roberts’ Rules, “out of order.”

Her life, by patrician standards, is mostly out of order.

The hearing officer was generous with his patience and polite, but eventually, gently reminded her that since this was a land use hearing, questions about regulations not in the city’s jurisdiction had to be addressed elsewhere. Later he surrendered the Hearing Officer’s Chair to me. I sifted through the pile of preprinted cards as I began my first hearing, and noticed this speaker’s card, which in neat printing was filled out like this:

Name: Patricia Ann
Date: 65 years of age
Address: Homeless

She has a name. We have a zoning hearing process, and I am grateful for public deliberations and orderly processes in warm indoor spaces. I am reminded these spaces need opening up to Patricia Ann and her fellow travelers, if for no purpose other than offering a few minutes of simple hospitality. And that her voice needs attention. And that after she left the room, on to her next warmer place, the land use process and its participants occasionally should recall all our Patricia Anns. Instead of dismissing her attending as another “slice of life,” we might welcome this messenger, especially but not exclusively in this season. And heed her message.

Thanks be to God, His Son’s parents were out of place, too. And, mercifully, that the innkeeper didn’t toss them from his stable. Jesus, the adult, was mostly out of order. What a blessing! Merry Christmas, Patricia Ann. Thanks for the reminders, and stay warm. And to all, a Good Night!