Saturday, September 12, 2015

Negotiating: Greed & Ego vs. Honesty & Love

I've been a part of some negotiations recently and noticed something about negotiating that disturbs me.

Negotiations tend to be driven by greed or ego.

Greed: I want to sell the house for as much money as possible because I want more money. On the flip side: I want to buy this house for as little money as I can get away with because I want to keep more of the money I've earned. I deserve this value because of such and such reasons that I justify to myself. Blah blah blah. Both parties do it.

Ego: I want to win the transaction by not giving in too much to what the other person wants so that I can get more of what I want. I deserve to get what I want because of such and such reasons that I justify to myself. Blah blah blah. Both parties do it.

Please help me understand anything I may be missing.

If I was trying to negotiate from a position of pure honesty I realized I would be "taken advantage of" because the other negotiator likely did not share my love of honesty. One option is to honestly state up front what you believe to be the value of the house you're selling. But everyone knows that you can't do that because you have to say more than what you hope to get because you know the buyer will talk you down. That's the game.

To me, setting an asking price that's higher than what I think the house is worth is a form of dishonesty. It's playing a game that is driven by greed or ego.

I understand that negotiating/haggling/dickering has been a part of humanity forever, but I'm still struggling with the greed/ego part of it because I don't want my actions to be driven by greed or ego.

I see this in early dating relationships, too: Don't call her back for at least 3 days because you don't want her to know that you're actually interested in her.

This is all bullshit.

Why does our society reward those who play these games?

Of course it depends on your definition of "reward". Beyond a certain point, money should not be seen as a reward. Unfortunately it is by most Americans.

So where am I going with this? I guess I'm sharing a disgust with our society that doesn't feel right to me. You probably have things about our society that disgust you as well.

Thanks for listening. I choose the road of honesty and you are welcome to take advantage of me because that's the best I can do for myself right now. Your thoughtful comments are appreciated.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Success is Personal

One of my favorite podcasts is The Tim Ferriss Show where Tim, the author of The Four-Hour Work Week, interviews people who are thought leaders or highly regarded as being successful in their field. Two recent episodes I recommend are discussions with:

One question he always asks these people is: When I say the word success, who is the first person who comes to mind?

The first couple times I heard that question I admit that the first person who came to mind was Warren Buffet. After all, he's worth a shit-ton of money so he must be successful, right? He figured out how to win at picking stocks so that must mean he's successful because it's something that our culture seems to value highly.

But after I thought about it more I began questioning what it means to be successful and why my mind went straight to one of the wealthiest men on the planet. Because when I really think about it, money has very little to do with my idea of success, and yet I feel like culturally it's where many of us Americans go initially when presented with such a question.

What is Success?
At its basic level, successful means completing a task or reaching a goal. It's when a person accomplishes the thing they set out to do. Due to lack of food resources, the smoothie I made for myself this morning was an experiment that consisted of a base of frozen broccoli, layered with beets from the farmers market, bananas, cucumber and cinnamon. It actually tasted really good. Success!

But when we examine the idea about a life lived as being successful we realize that it is an extremely personal question. We cannot accurately say that someone else is a success unless we intimately understand their personal goals.

For instance, I think that Tim Ferriss is a successful gentleman. He's written 3 best-selling books, has a very popular podcast and has helped thousands of people live better lives because of the ideas he has explored and shared. He's also worth millions of dollars and hangs out with other wealthy Silicon Valley angel investors. He travels the world regularly and is a champion tango dancer. 

But when I listen to him, it's clear that he doesn't consider himself successful. He's still striving for a level of success that he has defined as being far higher than where he is now (which feels plenty high enough for me). So for me to suggest that he is successful and should be happy with his life is insulting to him because it's his life.

Success is Personal
So I guess what I'm saying is that success is personal. It isn't right for us to suggest that someone else has lived a successful life unless we truly understand what makes them tick. The question shouldn't be only "when I say the word success who is the first person who comes to mind?", but should be "what is your definition of living a successful life and who is an example of someone that you emulate in your striving to achieve it?"

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Old Man of the Inland Sea

Here's how I spent a rather joyous evening yesterday.

1. Was checking out this cool River Signal blog where some folks are cruising down the Mississippi River on a pretty sweet boat and chronicling their journey in story and with local musicians.

2. There I saw this performance video from Mpls musicians Tree Party

Tree Party from The River Signal on Vimeo.

3. I dug the song so I checked out the band's website. It turns out they made an album last year that's compiled of songs all based on interesting historical characters in Minnesota lore like John Beargrease and Dorothy Molter, the famed root beer lady of the BWCA.

4. Their website contained this super cool animated video of the same song that they performed on the boat (above) -- Helmer Aakvik: The Old Man of the Inland Sea.

5. I wanted to learn more about Helmer so I googled him and found this historical account of his harrowing adventure on Lake Superior back in November of 1958

Good times. Great music combined with a sense of discovery and learning about historical personages. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

On Being Parentless

For three months now I've been parentless. My mom had ovarian cancer back in 2001 and my father died from esophageal cancer this past April, one day before his 78th birthday. I'm 45 and can only think of a few friends who have lost even one parent and no others my age who have lost both.

It's not like the relationship that my generation has with our parents is anything near as intimate as what people under the age of 30 today seem to have with their parents. Many kids today graduate from high school, move out of their parents house and still communicate daily with one of their parents on the phone for years and years. I never did that so this isn't a sob story. It also isn't a sob story because my parents went relatively quickly and I have friends who are dealing with situations with living parents that I do not envy.

In fact I'm still trying to figure out what kind of story it is.

It isn't a comedy or a horror flick and it certainly isn't sci-fi. Maybe it's just a slice of life piece like a Richard Linklater arthouse film -- the ones that just kind of follow a main character through a time in their life where nothing particularly dramatic happens and you wonder why they ever made a movie about it. Maybe.


Several years ago I was having a discussion with a girlfriend about what we learned from our parents growing up. She's from Pennsylvania and was (probably still is) significantly more emotional than I. It was a difference that came to be a challenge for us. She said that from her parents she learned passion. I said that from my parents I learned manners.

I never knew that passion was something we could learn from family because passion and 19th century Norwegian immigrant farmers aren't normally used in the same novella. Obviously my parents weren't of the 19th century but they seemed to retain many of those values that were handed down to them:

  1. say please and thank you, 
  2. be responsible so as to not be a burden on anyone, and 
  3. the salad fork gets placed outside the dinner fork on the left side of the plate.

These were wonderful skills for drawing loving nods from great aunts at family dinner gatherings, but different than what I needed to intimately jibe with the girlfriend from back east.


There's definitely a sort of empty feeling being parentless, but I'm not sure how much of that feeling is because I'm parentless and how much of it is because I'm also childless, girlfriendless and dogless. I do have a sister who's awesome and a fantastic niece and nephew, but they live 1000 miles away.

The emptiness is also compounded by a feeling of being in purgatory -- that my life is kind of on hold while I'm finishing out this Denver lease and trying to figure out what comes next for me. I have a lot of options.


The options in my life stem from the freedom of being parentless, childless, girlfriendless and dogless -- not that lonely freedom is any great shakes, but it does open up an entire world of futures.

I mean, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to Christmas becoming a thing of the past in my world. Oh I'll still send gifts to my niece and nephew but I'd much rather see them on a ski trip to the mountains than over Christmas Eve dinner (though I will miss our fun/weird family Xmas menu). The only reason I've kept any connection at all to Christmas is because of the family tradition expected to be honored by my parents. I'll be fine with 12/25 being just another day on the calendar and happy to no longer have expectations of travel at that time of year.


So what kind of story is this?

I don't know. It's not clear. We can't tell because it's my story and the story ain't over yet.

But I have a feeling there might be a twist in Act III.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Psychology of the Motorist

Psychology of the motorist as presented by Goofy in 1950. I notice this in myself sometimes and it's one of the reasons that I cherish riding a bicycle so much -- riding a bike is joyful while driving a car is often stressful.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Skål to Rik

Skål to my father Rik who died this morning from esophageal cancer one day shy of his 78th birthday. If you don't have aquavit, feel free to raise a cold can of Blatz or Hamm's.

Friday, April 3, 2015

My Father is Dying

This morning my Father's ashen, gaunt face was an all-too familiar reminder of my Mother's 14 years ago. Ovarian cancer took her and esophageal cancer is taking him. They say drinking alcohol can cause esophageal cancer so, of the two, I'm more worried about that one.

Three weeks ago the oncologist said he had 6-12 months. At 6am this morning the on-call hospice nurse who came by the house said he has days, maybe a week, tops.

Over the past 3 months I have been able to help fulfill his wish to die at his home, and for that I am grateful. If he makes it to Monday he'll turn 78 years old.

Here's a poem I read this morning that struck me...

Shifting the Sun

When your father dies, say the Irish,
you lose your umbrella against bad weather.
May his sun be your light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Welsh,
you sink a foot deeper into the earth.
May you inherit his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Canadians,
you run out of excuses. May you inherit
his sun, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the French,
you become your own father.
May you stand up in his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Indians,
he comes back as the thunder.
May you inherit his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Russians,
he takes your childhood with him.
May you inherit his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the English,
you join his club you vowed you wouldn't.
May you inherit his sun, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Armenians,
your sun shifts forever.
And you walk in his light.
"Shifting the Sun" by Diana Der-Hovanessian, from Selected Poems. © Sheep Meadow Press, 1994. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Diatribe on Big Vice's Evil Marketing Schemes Toward Our Impressionable Youth

What you are about to see will disturb you. Even shock you.

There is a dark side to humanity that Big Vice wants to keep hidden from you because they stand to make obscene amounts of money by keeping it a secret. Their power and influence in Washington, D.C. cannot remain hidden.

The purpose of this post is not to shock you, but to educate you, because I believe that only through education can we have any hope for the future of humanity.


This is me, but a simple lad full of life and promise. Judging by the fashion and hairstyles it looks to be either 1973 or 1974. It appears as if I'm attending some sort of afternoon golf playdate, probably with my loving, yet unsuspecting, father. You can see that I'm in the arms of none other than the world famous Hamm's Beer Bear with his cheeky grin and welcoming furry embrace. In retrospect we can clearly see that this mascot was craftily engineered by Big Vice in order to lure pliable youth like me into it's treacherous underworld. But, alas, I was caught unawares.


And this is me yesterday, more than 40 years later, proving beyond a doubt that clever marketing of vices to children is indeed the most evil plot ever by Big Vice to subvert our society and force us into mindless service to vile corporations. I mean look at me. The photo is timestamped 2:33 pm on a Thursday. 

What kind of upstanding citizen finds himself alone in a bar at 2:30 on a weekday!

Dear citizen, please take this as the warning it is meant to be. 
The next step is up to you.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Best? Or Simply My Favorite?

Decided I'm going to try to stop referring to things as "the best" and instead say "my favorite". This is in response to my current understanding of the world and its 7 billion different realities. I think it's important to recognize that each person lives in a different reality from the others, each as defined by their own life experiences.

Why can there be really smart people who are hardcore Republicans and really smart people who are hardcore Democrats?

Cuz we each live in our own reality and see the world through our own personal experiences.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Ski Like You Mean It

I wasn't able to do much skiing this year, but here are my 2 favorite ski clips from the past 5 years or so...

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Kids: Don't Stay in School

I love this song. It challenges the status quo in a thoughtful manner. And, if that weren't enough, you can dance to it.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Lake Superior Ice Caves

Last weekend a friend and I drove 4 hours up to the Lake Superior Ice Caves near the Apostle Islands on the mainland of northern Wisconsin.

We parked along highway 13 and walked along a road about 1 mile to the lake. From there began a stretch of ice caves and formations over the next mile or so of lakeshore. We walked on the lake for a few hours finding wonders around every corner.

It was super cool. You should go. Here are some images. Click here for more.

 That's a tree with the big clomp of ice around it...

Ice stalactites...frosty...

Some of the best spots were found by worm crawling through a small opening on the lake and being greeted by a mini Fortress of Solitude...

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Back Home

For the past two weeks I've been living with my ailing father back at the ol' family homestead in suburban Roseville, MN. He was diagnosed with esophageal cancer around Christmas and started chemotherapy two weeks ago. I lost my mother to ovarian cancer back in 2001.

Aside from a very short-lived foray into babysitting when I was about 13, this is the first time I've ever acted as caregiver to another human. I've barely even ever taken care of a pet, but I think I'm doing a pretty good job.

Moving back into the house I grew up in feels familiar in so many ways, but under these circumstances it's certainly not a comforting type of familiarity -- more like bumping into an ex-girlfriend while making that god-forsaken once a year shopping trip to the mall.

Regarding my old neighborhood, this experience has reinforced my feelings about living in the suburbs. I try to go out for a walk and there are few options of interest. When I am out walking oftentimes the sidewalk simply comes to an end in the middle of a block. Bicycles are so rare that I've mostly kept mine in the garage because sometimes it just doesn't pay to go too hard against the grain. I do not belong here anymore.

These things just make the whole situation more challenging for me as there feels to be no place of comfort. I've watched more TV in the past 2 weeks than in the prior 2 years and have been unsuccessful at avoiding junk food. I'm falling back into habits from high school.

But of course the flip side of this is probably akin to what many of you parents understand -- it feels wonderful to be of service to a loved one, even when it's not fun. For the first time in my life I'm a vital cog in the life of another, a provider of critical support.

This will be a time of growth for me as I experience new challenges and broaden my understanding of the human condition, a condition I'm slowly learning to see more clearly.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Yoga Instructors and Law Enforcement Officers

What is real?
How do we define reality?
And if it's so simple to look at a situation and see that thing x caused thing y to happen, then why is our political climate so unclear?

It's because each of us creates our own reality. Reality is a human construct that can only be viewed through human eyes, each of which carries with it a lifetime of experiences which shape how everything is interpreted by each of us.

As a result, we can have two well-educated people look at the same challenge and come up with entirely different ways to address it. In the arts the ability to view the world differently is considered a tremendous skill or even genius. In politics the same skill is often divisive.

The great thing is that we each get to choose our own path in life. Even at those times where we think we don't have any choices, we really do still have an infinite amount of choice. It's just that our perception of how appropriate some of those choices are affects our reality and hence our decision making.

Still with me?

So when choosing a career, for instance, we can choose to surround ourselves with love or surround ourselves with hate. Yoga instructors have chosen to surround themselves with positivity, peace, good health, empathy and love. Law enforcement officers have chosen to surround themselves with negativity (and it shouldn't have to be said that obviously we require this role in our society).

I had never thought of it in this exact way before, but last week I realized that I'd rather go through life as a yoga instructor (i.e. surrounding myself with positivity) than as a law enforcement officer.

I'm choosing to do what I can in life to surround myself with peace, good health, empathy and love. What do you choose?

Monday, January 12, 2015


Alibi? wasn't me?

The other day I ended up on some website where you upload a photo of your face and it analyzes it for symmetry. It does this because people deemed most beautiful to the human eye tend to have a certain symmetry to their face.

Here's my results...

I am a 6.73 out of 10. Here's why:

  • Your face has poor horizontal symmetry
  • Your ears are too long for your nose
  • Your innerocular distance is too big for your eyes
  • Your nose is too wide for your face width
  • The ratio of your face length to face width is nearly ideal
  • Your mouth is too wide for your nose
It could have at least started with the one positive comment, right? In order to butter me up a bit before bringing down the hammer?

Saturday, January 3, 2015

When Slowing Down & Paying Attention Are Someone Else's Problem


Have you become sick and tired of being aware of other people around you?
When you're behind the wheel of 2-tons of man-crushing steel, do you not want to be bothered with checking so-called "blind spots"?
Do you believe yourself to be the center of the universe?

It's time to take back your personal liberties!

Early Warning System for Cars and Cyclists

For when slowing down and paying attention are someone else's problem

via Adventure Journal

Today in History - Orion

I bet Stone Age Man looked up at what we call the constellation Orion and saw a likeness of himself, too.

Only that wasn't a sword.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Children & Education & World Travel

I was thrilled to read a post from the good folks at Bumfuzzle that finally explains their philosophy on educating their children. What thrilled me was that it's the same philosophy that I dug out of somewhere inside myself in the past year.

Note: Bumfuzzle is a blog written by a married American couple who have two young children, maybe 3 & 5 years old. They slowly travel the world via boats and vintage RVs and it appears as if their children are having an amazing experience. How fantastic for children to grow up being exposed to such cultural variety (both good and bad) as a way to shape their minds into those of thoughtful, caring global citizens. After all, the whole world is our neighbor now, and it's best we all learn to get along.

About a year ago after I quit my corporate career and was re-examining my values & life goals, I realized that a key reason why I've never wanted children was because I didn't want to be tied down to one school system for 18 years like most American families. But I realized it could be different. I realized raising children might not be so bad if I simply took them adventuring all over the world with me and their mother (this is obviously all strictly hypothetical, you understand).

I believe I'm not so much against having children of my own as much as I'm against settling down.

Their education would be more informal and more well-rounded and would be influenced by the great cultures of the world. They wouldn't be taught something just so they can pass the test and make the school look good. They'd learn languages at a young age when it's easier for their brains.

Anyways. I'm sure there would be many challenges to such a lifestyle, but that'd be part of the adventure and part of the learning process.

Just so you understand: I still don't want kids. But if I did meet a wonderful woman who absolutely wanted children, this is the way I'd want to do it.

And now I'm just happy to be able to follow along as somebody else tests it out for me.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Value of Travel

If you've been reading this blog then you know that global travel is something I value highly. However I'm not sure if I've ever taken the time to explain what's behind that.

Do I like to travel in order to avoid working?
Am I a beach bum or a slacker who has no interest in contributing to society?

In fact, I believe that thoughtful global travel is the highest form of contributing to society. After all, everyone on the planet is now our neighbor and as a global superpower I believe it is both our responsibility and in our best interest to better understand our neighbors so that we can all get along.

So why do I travel?
Why did I spend a month in Indonesia and want to live (not just as a tourist) for at least 3 months in each of Mexico, Turkey, Colombia, Thailand, France, Chile, the Himalayas and more?

Rick Steves articulates the answer far better than I could. This sparkling 20-minute video is highly recommended and chock full of beautiful, thought-provoking insights, some of which I've highlighted below.

On "America! Fuck Yeah!"
2:53 - how we grew up thinking that America was at the top of the pyramid and everyone else was "trying to figure it out"
3:00 - we have the American Dream...these people have the Sri Lankan Dream... our dream is beautiful but so is theirs
3:13 - "travel wallops my ethnocentricity"

On Iran
7:09 - "Why am I going to Iran? Because I believe it's good character to get to know people before you bomb them."
7:41 - "fear is for people who don't get out much"
8:04 - Another perspective on "Death to America" in Iran.
9:28 - On being aware of and understanding the baggage of other cultures

On Legislating Morality
12:00 - In America we're all about government by, for and of the people via the corporations we own. In Europe they also have government by, for and of the people, but in spite of the corporations they own

On High Taxes
17:14 - Rick Steves: How can you Swiss people so dociley pay such high taxes?
         Swiss citizen: What's it worth to live in a country where there's no homelessness, no hunger, and everybody (regardless of their parents) has access to quality health care and education?

On Understanding Other Religion
19:00 - the Whirling Dervish

On the Value of Travel
20:30 -  "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness"
                               - Mark Twain

Be sure to also check out Rick's podcasts. He's also here on twitter.
And feel free to share this video with people you know who "don't get out much".

Monday, December 22, 2014

2014 In Review: What I Watched

This is the third of a few posts reviewing my experiences in the past year:
  1. What I Read
  2. What I Listened To
  3. What I Watched
  4. What I Did
In 2014 I watched more movies than any other year of my life. This was the result of my expanded free time, living in a new place and not knowing anybody, and living in a big city again that has quality arthouse and independent cinema.

What I Watched in 2014


Six films really stood out to me and were an absolute pleasure to behold. I've ranked them here in order of my preference:
  1. Birdman - Michael Keaton & Ed Norton starred in the best and most beautifully crafted film I saw this year. Follow the link to read the rotten tomatoes reviews that describe it better than I can.
  2. Mistaken for Strangers - It starts out as a documentary about the band The National directed by the singer's brother. But it's where it goes from there that makes it spectacular and unique among rock docs.
  3. Jingle Bell Rocks! - I covered this one last week.
  4. Boyhood - This film was made over the course of 12 years, following the growth of its lead actor from boy to adult.
  5. Top Five - It's funny. And it has romance, but I'd {shudder} to call it a romantic comedy because Chris Rock is at a level of excellence that genre has never seen. 
  6. Snowpiercer - Best and only sci-fi I remember seeing in 2014. It all takes place on a train in a dystopian future where the entire planet Earth is frozen.

TV Shows

I finally watched Breaking Bad after having it recommended to me by enough people over the past few years. My technique with tv shows is to not worry about watching them on their first run but to wait a few years. Then, if people are still talking about it, I'll watch it on Netflix (if available).

Normally I can't make it past season 2 or 3 of an hour-long drama series because I feel as if after the first couple seasons the writers have to force the plot in a variety of cliched ways in order to keep the program on air and making money. After all, the first goal of almost all television is for the show to make money. That's why after a few seasons we tend to see things like:
  • Everybody starts sleeping with everybody else
  • Some long-lost friend/lover/enemy/child from the past shows up out of nowhere. Shocker!
  • Tragedy like a car crash or heart attack
  • etc.

I enjoyed Breaking Bad, but part of the reason I made it through all 5 seasons is because I knew it was ending in the 5th season. If I were watching it live on the first run I would have given up on it.


Cody Townsend wasn't the first guy to ski this. That honor belongs to Travis Rice. But, damn, did he ever slay it.