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, buy ambien cr canada 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!

Do teachers really teach you what you need to know?

Many years ago I read a science fiction story about a boy who was a prodigy on the piano. In this futuristic society, he was forbidden from listening to any of the old masters, like Bach or Mozart or Brahms or anyone else.

Why? Because his teachers wanted his gift to be pure; they didn’t want anyone to influence him. Eventually, he heard some Mozart, and as soon as he did, he was scared that he would be discovered, so he was careful to avoid playing anything that sounded like it might have been influenced by Mozart. But his teachers noticed, because gone from his repertoire was the fugue, and many touches that Mozart favored.

So what made me think of this? Last weekend (Late September 2015) I went to hear Dar Williams at the Lake Placid (NY) center for the arts. She is a wonderful comedian and folk artist, and comes across as a little ditzy but she said something really interesting: She had been influenced by Joni Mitchell, and as soon as she realized this influence, she destroyed all the cassettes she had of Joni.

And it got me to thinking…

I like to trade in the equities and futures markets, and I have been doing it for quite a while. When I was getting started in serious trading, I spoke with a friend of mine who has made his way very successfully trading on the Chicago Board of Trade, being a floor trader there. He told me that as much education as I might get, ultimately, before I would be truly successful, I would have my own style, perhaps incorporating some of the things I learned from other traders; but if I tried to just follow their rules and methods, I would not succeed. And indeed, this has been true for me.

There have been many books written about the stock market, and about how to succeed in almost any endeavor you can name, but most people who grab one of these books and follow exactly what the books say to do, do not succeed. Malcome Gladwell, in his book ‘The Tipping Point’, talks about his experience interviewing top tennis players. Asked to describe how they hit forehands, all of them talked about rolling the racket over the top of the ball to impart topspin. In high speed video taken of these same top players hitting forehand returns, not even one of them “rolled the racket” over the top of the ball.

I had a similar experience learning gymnastics. Most sensible people get involved in this sport when they are young, say, under 10 years old. But I waited until I was over 30, and it was a bit challenging. One of the early, simple tricks I wanted to learn is called a back extension roll. This is a trick where you do a back summersault, and when you are upside down, you press into a handstand. It really is not a hard trick, but I just couldn’t get it. My coaches, and other kids, (well I wasn’t really a kid at that point…) told me that it was timing, that it was just can u buy ambien over the counter doing it at the right time, etc.

I had pretty much decided that at 6’2″ and not the strongest person on earth (though I was pretty darn strong then), that I just didn’t have what it took to do this trick. I would get upside down and press for all I was worth to try to get into a handstand, and it just didn’t work. I tried and tried, and tried some more, for weeks. Finally, I asked one of the coaches to do about 50 of them, right in front of me, so I could watch every nuance. He humored me. And… I saw something. What I saw was that his hands actually left the mat right before the handstand. I mean, they came came off the mat by 2-3 inches. And I know that, as strong as my coach was, there was no possible way that he was strong enough to do a handstand pushup with enough energy that he could throw himself all the way off the mat.

So I started looking a little closer, and I discovered what he was doing: He was using his legs. The trick had NOTHING to do with timing, nothing to do with pressing up with your arms or shoulders — not of that. It is a maneuver called a kip, where you shoot your legs out to get the energy needed to move the rest of your body. And as soon as I realized that, I could do the trick. Literally, in the instant that I realized what he was doing, I could do the trick.

What does this have to do with teaching? Even the best teachers and coaches may not be able to teach you want you need to know to succeed. They may not have any idea what they do to succeed themselves; they are capable of it, but will not be able to impart the information to you. Similarly, when I learned to trade futures, I could watch the teachers make many successful trades, but most of the time I could not make them. They cannot teach students beyond a certain level; and it probably is not the level where there can be any significant success. To reach that level, we must go out on our own, we must forget the influence of others in order to be truly successful. We can, and should, build on what they can teach; but we must also develop our own ways.

I think this is true in complex tasks; simpler tasks can be modeled, as we are taught in NLP. There are many studies of relatively simple tasks, such as shooting accurately or performing some particular physical skill well — we can find someone who does that well, and model it, and duplicate it. It will be very hard to equal or surpass them, though, unless we develop our own path.

And perhaps, if we could truly accurately model more complex behavior, then we could also perform that behavior. But it is well nigh impossible to model it if the people doing it don’t even know what they are doing.



Why I love Java (NOT!)

In about 2006, I installed some cameras at our place at the lake.


These are Trendnet IP cameras, and they are a little wireless internet server with a CMOS camera sensor in them, and they take a snapshot every 5 minutes or so, and upload the image to a server so we can see a time lapse of activity. Mostly it was for fun, but they have lately grown in popularity dramatically, even making it to the #1 webcam on a few years ago. And they are indexed on google maps of the area.

Sometimes I want to make an adjustment, such as fiddling with the focus or something, and so I need to see live video from the camera. And, there are two ways to do this. One way is to use Microsoft’s ActiveX, which doesn’t run on macs; the other way is to use the Java viewer, which does run on a mac, and depends on Sun’s Java package.

Over the years, there have been many exploits, mostly of PCs, through Java. And, these exploits have been addressed, eventually, through Java updates.

This summer, everything had been fine, until I got home from a trip and wanted to look at the streaming video from one of the cameras. When I tried to launch the stream, Java popped up and told me that I MUST IMMEDIATELY UPGRADE MY JAVA VERSION OR THE INTERNET HACKERS WOULD BREAK DOWN MY DOOR AND DESTROY MY COMPUTER. Well, not really, but the message was about that annoying, and, it positively refused to run my viewer, would not launch it.

So, of course, I upgraded to the latest Java runtime, some version of 8. And… then the site wasn’t trusted and I had to enter it into the trusted sites area (which warned me about impending doom again), and then warned me (in spite of it being in the trusted sites list) that I would surely be killed and/or mutilated if I dared try to run the applet from my camera so I could see the video.

And then, after agreeing that I might get killed or mutilated, it loaded the applet, and sat there with a blank page. See, in spite of me agreeing to the death and mutilation, Java 8 runtime will *not* allow my applet to run. They told me I would have to recode it to behave better. Of course, the applet is in a ROM in a camera in a different state that is not supported anymore and … well, no, there is really no way to fix it.

So, I removed Java 8 from my computer, and started loading older and older versions of Java 7 until I found one that would run the applet and only warn me one time about death and mutilation. Now the interesting thing is that the older version has a security slider that has 3 settings, for medium, high, and very high. This seems fine to me… Java 8, the latest version, has settings for “Almost completely useless”, and “really totally completely useless”. I mean, not really, but the security settings are so extreme that it really is not useful. A little like keeping your weapon locked in a safe that takes 5 minutes to open, when the point of the weapon is to save your life when someone breaks down your door… or like requiring that you keep your fire extinguisher locked in a box in the basement. I used to hate PDF because there was no way to edit it or work with it, and fortunately now there are all sorts of apps that let you do whatever you want with a PDF so it is mostly OK now (and PDF is mostly supported natively in the Mac) But Java, well, this is a different story. As of Java 8, it is no longer useful to me. I will keep my version of 7 around because I do need to see my streams from time to time, but I am really hoping it will get supplanted by something actually useful and not frustration-inducing.

I have a similar dislike of flash in all its forms. Android mostly gets along without flash, and because Apple won’t support flash, I’m hoping it will just die a silent death. Kind of like I hope Java does.



Arizona’s HOA Rules Just Got Improved!

Great news for AZ landlords! The legislature passed a bill that cracks down on HOAs (HomeOwner Associations):

HOAs; Rental Property

• Asserts that a unit or property owner may use their unit or property as a rental property in accordance with the declaration’s rental time period restrictions, unless it is prohibited in the declaration.

• Allows a unit or property owner, through a written designation, to authorize a third party to act as their agent with respect to all HOA matters regarding the rental property.

• Directs the unit or property owner to provide the HOA with the written designation, which authorizes the HOA to conduct all business relating to the rental property through the designated agent.

• Specifies that notice by the HOA to the designated agent regarding a rental property serves as notice to the owner.

• Prohibits an HOA from requiring an owner or designated agent to disclose any information regarding a tenant, other than the following:
-Name and contact information for any adults occupying the unit or property.
-Time period of the lease including the beginning and ending dates of the tenancy.
-A description and license plate number of the tenant’s vehicles.
-A government issued identification that bears a photograph and date of birth, if the unit or property is in an age restricted community.

Permits an HOA to charge no more than $25 as an administrative fee for each new tenancy for a unit or property, but not for the renewal of an existing lease.
-Requires the $25 fee to be paid within 15 days of the post marked request.

• Prohibits an HOA from the following:
-Assessing or levying any other fee or fine or otherwise impose a requirement on a rental property that is different than on an owner-occupied unit or property in the association.
– Requiring a unit or property owner to provide them with a copy of a rental application, credit report, lease agreement, rental contract or any other personal information.
– Requiring a tenant to sign a waiver or other document limiting their civil rights to due process as a condition of their occupancy of a rental property.
-Restricting or prohibiting a unit owner from serving on the board of directors based on the owner not being an occupant of the unit.
– Imposing any fee, penalty, assessment or other charge of more than $15 for incomplete or late information.

• Determines any attempt by an HOA to impose a fee, penalty, assessment or other charge not authorized by statute to void the fee authorized by statute and the requirement to provide information to the HOA.

• Allows an HOA to acquire a credit report on a person in an attempt to collect a debt.

SB 1454 was signed by the Governor on June 20th, 2013.
ARS Titles Affected: 16


The Tatshenshini

A long time ago, before I was involved in real estate, I took some time off working in technology to go on a 4 day river trip in the Grand Canyon. I was hooked… I arranged to leave my job with GTE at the time, and signed on to be a boatman, rowing for Colorado River and Trail Expeditions.

It was a wonderful experience; I got to row through the Grand Canyon several times, and did Desolation Canyon on the Green River, and Cataract Canyon on the Colorado, and Westwater a few times over several summers. I also went on the Tatshenshini river expedition, which is a wonderful trip, in Alaska. As fate would have it, there was a film student on the trip making a film about our little adventure.

I have wanted to see it again many times, but the film was never on the internet anywhere I could find. I ran across an old VHS tape of it a few days ago, and thought I would post it.


Ice River Journal

A lengthy post about terrorism

Do you ask yourself sometimes, “What could they have been thinking?”

Sometimes this happens when the other person is just in a different place. I recall a conversation I had with a friend who was a businessman, and another who was a whitewater river guide / college student. We were talking about how deforestation in the rain forest was a bad thing; I had mentioned the statistic that the forest coverage is actually increasing now due to less deforestation and more planting and preservation (this was many years ago, I don’t know the current numbers.)

The river guide said that there was never a reason to clearcut the jungle.

Then the businessman spoke up. He said, “You might want to think about that. If you are a native living in the jungle (We called the rain forest a ‘jungle’ then, I’m sure it is somehow politically incorrect today) and you need to feed your family, clearcutting some land to plant crops makes lots of sense, when the alternative is starving to death or not being able to provide housing, clothing, and other neccessities to your family.”

Things can make so much more sense when we put ourselves in the shoes of other people who we are having trouble understanding. (There is an NLP technique that helps with this called Perceptual Positions, and I highly recommend taking a look at using it when you don’t get where someone is coming from)

Let’s look a little deeper, though, and think about our worldviews, and the worldview of someone else. I am generally an entrepreneur; I have several businesses, and I am mostly focused on how to keep them alive and profitable. So I don’t spend much time thinking about violence, for example, and rather than being a strict rule follower, I often look for loopholes or places where I can push the rules to gain a competitive advantage. For me it is a negotiation – I was at a zoning hearing in Pinal county recently, because I had just purchased a property to flip. I knew there was trash on the lot, and I was in the process of getting it cleaned up. I didn’t know that a zoning officer had already inspected it before I purchased and had filed a complaint with the previous owner.

So I got a summons to appear at the zoning hearing, and there were a couple cases ahead of me. It was interesting to watch, as mostly the people told their story and immediately accepted what the hearing judge determined.

When it was my turn, I told my story and then started a negotiation with the judge, and got a little more than he initially was offering, but ultimately he said “I have ruled! This is how it is!” The whole hearing room laughed – because I was still in negotiation mode. Pushing the boundaries. That’s just how I appraoch things. Everything is a negotiation, right?

I have a dear friend who is very much NOT about this; rules are rules, and there are no real grey areas. She would be absolutely horrified at my approach to negotiation with an authority figure. In her world, they are the rulers and you do what they say. In mine, they are a resource to be negotiated with to get the best outcome.

I have another friend who is very concerned with the environment. He has a Prius, he very meticulously separates out his recyclables, never throws used batteries or CFLs in the recycle, etc. He comes from a different point a view, and he would have issues understanding what he perceives as my insatiable drive to make a buck at any cost. For me it is not that, but I am passionate about what I do and work many hours at it — in my world it is not at any cost, and it is not (well maybe not) insatiable.

And because I know him well, I don’t think of him as an environmentalist whacko, but that is a term that other entrepreneurial-minded people might use, as we/they might see him as someone who would sacrifice their business, their income, their family for the environment. His view of my “level”, and my level’s view of his “level,” are likely both inaccurate and lead to many heated facebook discussions (We have all seen them, right?)

What I have been describing here can be modelled pretty well with something called Spiral Dynamics, something I have previously written about. Here are the “levels of consciousness”, briefly, and some examples and rules about them. No level is “better” or “worse” than any other, and we all exhibit the characteristics of the various levels depending on the situation and mood in which we find ourselves. For example, if someone breaks into your house, depending on who you are, you might go Red (power god) to defend yourself, or you might go Purple (Survival) to do whatever they want to protect yourself; or you might go Orange (Achiever) and start negotiating with them. Blue (Rules/Authoritarian) might call the police and hide and wait. And in different circumstances we might all do different things. Green – Take all my money just don’t hurt my plants…

1. Beige – Animalistic – biological urges – Instinctive: as natural instincts and reflexes direct; automatic existence. About self. Example: A very young child.

2. Purple – Physical world and realm of spirit beings overlap. Collaborate for safety and survival. Ancestral ways, customs and kinship offer answers. Succumb easily to authority; about the family or tribe.

3. Red – Power god. My way or the highway. Do anything it takes to get what I want. Egocentric: asserting self for dominance, conquer nature. Exploitive; concern with shame, no guilt. Impulsive and immediate. No sense of the future, of consequences from actions taken today. Example: Gang leader, warlord, gang banger.

4. Rule based – Controlled by obedience to a Higher Power that directs living, punishes wrongs and eventually rewards good works and righteous living. Conforming to norms; feel guilt; search truth, meaning, purpose. Examples: religions, military, the postal service?

5. Orange. Achiever, entrepreneur. Resources to develop and opportunities to make things better and bring prosperity for those with initiative and willingness to risk. Act pragmatically and calculate to get desired results; maneuver through competition and comparison. Example: small business owners, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates when he was younger.

6. Green. Cares about the world, the environment, all people, all life. The shared habitat wherein humanity can find peace and purposes through affiliation and appreciating life’s diversities. We all know people like this.

7. Yellow. Flex flow, big picture, manager. A chaotic organism with underlying order where change is the norm and uncertainty an acceptable state of being as knowledge evolves. Finds interconnections and layered causes; learns constantly; puts function over love, status, rules, or power. Examples: Yoda, Walt Disney.

8. Turquoise. Spiritual. Holistic. Collective consciousness; Oneness. Examples: think of the world’s spiritual leaders, Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama.

So what does this have to do with anything? I got to thinking about how this might apply to ISIS, to Al Queda, to the tribes and warlords that are causing so much strife. And the statements made by some of our political leaders and aspiring ones, that we need to be tolerant, or that we need to understand them and … well, we have all heard the rhetoric.

The truth is, people rarely move more than one level up or down in the Spiral in a lifetime. And people of one level have a really hard time understanding the life circumstances of people more than one level removed from their own.

ISIS and related groups seem to be run by Reds, and they use their organization (Blue) to recruit others. They are driven by a religious purpose; failing to obey means not just death, but that they will burn in Hell forever (and not get their 21 virgins.)

I think that much of that part of the world is Purple, or Red, and it is a natural evolution to Blue (rule based) that makes order out of the chaos. But there is Blue and there is Blue… As Orange achievers, we can relate to the Blue rule based folks. We might not agree with their rules, but we can understand them. We don’t really understand the violence, why so many are driven to beheadings, torture, denigration of women, and all that. And if we are Green or Yellow, we have lots of trouble with this.

The higher levels encompass the lower ones; so a Yellow or Green has a much better chance of appreciating the Red, Blue and Purple; but the lower levels have almost no shot at understanding the higher levels. A Red will come to appreciate that they need rules to survive in the society, but it is a leap to becoming an achiever and near impossible to get to Green from there.

So while we in the Western world, who are generally blue/orange/green, can have some appreciation for the deplorable conditions that exist in some areas of the Middle East (and in the inner cities of the West!), the predominantly Purple/Red/Blue societies in the middle East will be hard pressed to relate to us. This is why the woman who was helped by a clinic for free later returned to blow it up along with the Doctor who treated her. No sense of the future, no sense of responsibility beyond this moment, following the Rules set forth by her worldview, in spite of a Green physician who just wanted to help her.

To win the war on terror requires the near total eradication of the levels of consciousness prevalent in their society. The best way is through education and example. Their environment needs to change. They need to evolve from a primarily tribal/Red society into a primarily rule based Blue/Orange achiever society. But they have been in that place for thousands of years, and not much has changed.

Negotiation and treaties won’t work, because most Reds have no sense of the future, and treaties are about future behavior. Negotiation doesn’t matter, because they will say anything to get what they want in the moment. Sure, they have a rule based Blue organization, but the leaders are Red. The rules apply to the members, not the rulers. (Sound familiar?)

This frustration with constant broken promises is what leads many to want to bomb them into oblivion. But that won’t solve the problem, because the next generation will be in the same place again, in the same levels of consciousness, acting the same way. History shows this to be the case. It will solve the problem temporarily, but not permanently.

The only permanent solution is education and indoctrination into a society in which most of the people are at a higher level of consciousness. Right now we have the opposite happening: the terrorists are infiltrating our society and indoctrinating people to become like them. We don’t need to understand them; we need to convert them, to educate them.

Until our leaders figure this out, we will continue to think about military solutions, or negotiations and treaties that cannot work. Further, unless we stop the indoctrination of children into a mostly red religion, this problem will continue. More about this in a future post. But think about this: What part of muslim society has the greatest chance of influencing their children?



To Rent or to Buy? A Historical Perspective.

I am a member of a Facebook group of real estate agents. We talk about all sorts of stuff, and lately, there has been lots of talk about how most Millenials are renters rather than buyers. There are many reasons for this, but a big one is that they grew up during the housing crash and watched their parents and their friend’s parents lose their homes, and have their credit destroyed.

To really understand what happened, and what it is all about, we need to go back pretty far, to when the government got involved in home loans. There is a pretty decent history of it here, and it is telling. The government, as one of the New Deal policies, created agencies to guarantee home loans, and to reduce the large down payment that was required to buy a home. They introduced the 30 year fixed loan, and they had good reasons for doing this.

When a family buys a house with a substantial down payment, they have skin in the game. They will take better care of the home, they will be much more apt to make the payments, but more than that, they have real pride of ownership and have provided a stable living environment for their family. Family stability, having a home base, pride of ownership… these things are important. My parents owned their first home for only a few years, then moved to another where they lived for the next 40+ years. The first home I bought, I stayed in for more than 20 years.

In that time, the loan is paid off or paid way down; some states have laws that prevent any re-financing or have related restrictions (interesting that these states suffered the least from the housing crash…) So what does a family situation look like, 25-30 years buy gabapentin canada after purchase?

– The home is almost paid off, or totally paid off.

– There is LOTS of equity in the home.

– There is no house payment after it is paid off.

– When the wage earner passes away, or retires, there is no house payment.

– When both parents pass, there is a substantial legacy for any offspring, due to saving money for 30 years in the home, plus the increase in home value from market pressures.

To make decisions like this requires a long term outlook. Someone who is renting, other than for just a short time, generally will have a much shorter timeframe outlook than someone who wants to buy a home. The housing crash caused by government interference in the markets, followed by further interference to cure the wrong problem, resulting in much tighter loan standards, has led to a situation not dissimilar from before government interference started: Fewer families own homes, the 1% own homes and rent them out to everyone else. We see this in Phoenix with one of the largest homeowners begin Blackstone, renting the homes out to families who can no longer qualify for a loan.

Buying is one of the best things a family can do. Sure, there are issues, especially in a highly mobile society where a job change might require a move across the country – and when that happens, someone with a longer term outlook might rent out their home (for more than the loan payments!) and rent in the new city for a little while to save up for a new down payment, and to get to know the area well so that a good decision can be made for where to buy the next home.

There are other options, and other problems as well. We’ll discuss that in an upcoming blog post.