Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
- A donation to charity on behalf of the recipient. One approach: Give the person a check with the recipient line left blank. On an accompanying card, suggest that the person visit charitynavigator.org, which provides detailed information including efficiency on thousands of charities, arranged by category. If the recipient prefers to spend the money on him or herself, the person can write in their own name. Few people will.
- A gift certificate for one or more hours of your time to do whatever the recipient wishes: a massage, tutor their child, organize a messy room, etc.
- If you feel the need to buy a traditional gift, I recommend using amazon.com. It avoids your having to brave the traffic, find a parking spot, and fight the store crowds only to find they don't have what you want. And Amazon has every imaginable item, well categorized for easy finding, at competitive prices, with good customer service. Amazon even offers gift wrapping at much less cost than department store prices.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Thank you President Brouder, thank you Dr. Smith. When I hear a flowery introduction like that, I’m reminded of this little ditty: I may pretend the introduction is a bore. But deep inside, I’m chanting "more, more, more."
It feels like only yesterday that I was sitting at my own college graduation trying to listen to some old person giving the speech. I was fading in and out and mainly thinking, “I’m hungry--I can’t wait to go out to eat afterwards.”
Now I’m that old person and I still can’t wait to go out to eat. I will try to keep it short.
Ever since Dr. Smith asked me to give this commencement address, I’ve been keeping a list of all the pieces of advice I thought might really be helpful both to you the new graduates as well as to your family and friends who join you here. These are the seven I believe are most important:
Lesson 1: Savor every moment. Right after I graduated from college, I rewarded myself with a vacation to Europe. I recall rushing through the Louvre so I could squeeze in two or three more tourist spots that day. Of course, I enjoyed the Louvre—one of the world’s greatest museums-- far less than I could have and should have.
Life goes faster than you can possibly imagine. So try to savor every moment-- this very moment, going out to lunch afterwards, looking at the cutie sitting near you.
Lesson 2. Ask for what you want. As I think back on my 3,000 career coaching clients, so many had lived such constrained lives because they were afraid to ask for what they wanted: “I’m afraid I’ll be imposing. I’ll be embarrassed. What if I’m rejected?” Rationally, they knew they could survive the rejection but couldn’t, without some coaching, make themselves ask.
And asking for what you want (if it’s ethical) can so help your life. An example that my wife suggested I share with you: I’m self-employed, have a home office, and take as many deductions I legally can, maybe even a few gray areas. So, perhaps not surprisingly, I was audited twice in three years. And even though the IRS found me clean both years, the next year, I got yet another audit notice. My wife saw me starting the laborious process of organizing my receipts for the audit when she said, “I’m going to try to talk the IRS out of your audit.” She came home bursting with laughter: “I got them to cancel the audit!” As long as it’s ethical, ask; if someone says no, ask someone else, and if necessary, someone else.
Lesson 3. Stop procrastinating--it’s a career killer. When I give talks to unemployed people, I ask the audience, “If you consider yourself a procrastinator, raise your hand." Most do. For curiosity sake, when I gave a talk to a group of highly successful people, I asked the same question and only a small percentage raised their hand.
In college, you may often have been able to get away with procrastination: You waited to start your term paper until the last minute and, lo and behold, you got a good grade anyway. Or you didn’t do the term paper at all and the professor gave you an extension. But in the real world, procrastination usually devastates your career. You must cure yourself of that bad habit.
Decide that you care enough about yourself to force yourself to get started early on every task--well maybe not cleaning out your basement.
Lesson 4: Spend smart and save smart. College may have taught you many valuable things, but perhaps not how to manage money wisely. Such a topic may seem too plebeian for a commencement address, but spending and investing wisely, especially in our slow economy, can transform your life: You’ll have more freedom to choose your career--If you’re a big spender, you may be tempted into a career you like mainly for the money--bond trader, insurance salesman, marketing person, corporate lawyer--rather than something you’d find more intrinsically rewarding: perhaps teacher or architect or writer. By spending and saving wisely, you are also more likely to avoid the terror of not being able to pay your credit card bills (or student loans!,) having your home foreclosed, and going bankrupt. Here’s the world’s shortest course in managing money.
On the spending side: here’s how to spend cautiously without being unhappy for a lack of material possessions:
Housing: Housing is the largest investment you’ll probably ever make. And an axiom of investing is: Never catch a falling knife. Well, housing prices are a falling knife. So even if you can afford to buy a home, this may be the time to keep renting. As they taught you in physics, objects, even prices. tend to stay in motion in the same direction. Right now, they’re going down. Wait for a change of direction: wait for prices to go UP 10%. That increases your chances of getting a house less expensively. And when you do buy, buy in a good but not prestigious neighborhood--you pay a huge premium for prestige, tens maybe even hundreds of thousands of dollars, without sufficient recompense. Too, buy a house that has a good layout but in which the veneer needs help: a coat of paint, redecorating, and yard work. You’ll likely save many thousands more than it'll cost to fix it up.
Car. I’ll be very specific here, again more specific than may seem appropriate in a commencement address, but it can save you so much money that you’ll be freer to live the life well-led implied in your liberal arts education. Make your rule: “Buy a three-year-old Toyota and keep it until it’s unreliable.” Why three years old? Because cars lose much of their market value in the first three years yet have most of their life left in them. Why Toyota? At the risk of sounding like a Toyota salesman, Consumer Reports for decades has told us that not only are Toyotas superreliable when you get them, they stay that way for a long time, and with minimal maintenance. All my family’s Toyotas have lasted 175,000+ miles. I kept my previous one for 273,000 and the only reason I sold it is because my wife insisted, “Would you please get a new car already?” If you buy three-year-old Toyotas and keep them until they’re unreliable, you will save hundreds of thousands of dollars over your lifetime without diminishing your quality of life.
Spending in general. Study after study shows that you can’t spend your way into happiness. You buy that pair of shoes and you feel happy for a little while but like a heroin shot, it soon wears off, and to regain your shopper’s high, you usually have to buy something more expensive. And your spending keeps accelerating to maintain your shopper’s high, just like a drug addict’s habit. So many Americans have shopped their way into bankruptcy: If you’re a spender and suddenly you or your cash-cow spouse loses their job, you can’t make that credit card or mortgage payment.
Shopaholics and people who try to keep up with the Joneses are far less likely to be content with their lives than are people who seek pleasure from relationships, volunteer work, and from self-expression, for example, performing, writing, or involvement in politics. Alas, I haven’t been able to convince my wife.
On the saving side: This remarkably simple approach beats most investors’ results including the professionals’--and certainly ensures you don’t get scammed by the likes of Bernard Madoff, who ripped off his supposedly sophisticated clients to the tune of $50 billion.
Every time you have $1,000 extra in your checking account, do one of two things: If you’re risk-averse, visit bankrate.com to find the highest yielding bank CD in the U.S. You’ll get a guaranteed 4% return in an era of 1% inflation--that’s a great deal. Or if you'd rather assume some risk in hopes of greater rewards, without trying to time the market, invest the $1,000 in a solid, low-cost mutual fund. My favorite is Vanguard Index 500, which at very low cost enables you to invest in America’s 500 largest companies, which attract most of the nation’s best and brightest people, and most of which do business all over the world, including China and India, which are likely to grow more than the U.S. during your lifetime. I like the idea of investing my money in the nation’s best and brightest and betting on China’s and India’s growth.
And that’s the world’s shortest course in money management.
Lesson 5. Be kind, even if it doesn’t pay. That doesn’t require sainthood or even a lot of time. It just means, moment-to-moment, doing the right thing without expecting anything in return. In fact, being nice can even bite you. For example, if you're always kind to your boss, he might reasonably assume, “Well, he’s satisfied so I don’t need to give him a raise.” Be kind anyway because every night, when you put your head down on the pillow, you’ll feel good about who you are. Also, being kind ensures that your life will have yielded a net plus to the world. Not everyone can say that.
Lesson 6. Beware of The Parasite Syndrome. Many people expend enormous effort avoiding having to earn a paycheck. They try to mooch off their parents or romantic partner. They’re forever seeking--pardon the expression—a bailout. Being a parasite ultimately makes a person unhappy and powerless. Doing ethical work that pays the bills is much more likely to make you feel good about yourself and the life you’re leading than a lifeful of recreation, therapy, and affirmations.
Much of my feeling about the power of work comes from my career coaching clients, my friends, and originally, from my dad. He was a Holocaust survivor and rather than try to heal himself by reliving the Holocaust again and again, work healed him. When he was dumped from a cargo boat in the Bronx, NY, without a penny to his name, with no family, no education, and not a word of English, he did not take welfare and he felt no job was beneath him. He took a minimum-wage job sewing shirts in a factory in Harlem. And after a long day of work, he didn’t say, “I’m tired, I want to hang out.” He went to night school to learn English and because he didn’t want my mom, my sister and I to live forever in the Bronx tenement we were renting with the elevated train roaring 24/7, he saved up from his meager salary so he could afford the first and last month’s rent on a store--105 Moore St. in the worst area of Brooklyn--the only thing he could afford, but which offered hope that he might eventually earn more than the minimum wage. He did end up earning a middle-class living there, which enabled him to move our family from the Bronx to the bottom half of the duplex in the middle-class neighborhood in Queens where I spent the rest of my childhood. Hard work healed my dad and did good for his customers, my mom, my sister, and me.
Don’t be a parasite and, in looking for a romantic partner, beware of anyone you sense might always find a way to avoid contributing significantly to the family income. Unfortunately, given America’s likely descent from its position of worldwide economic dominance, it will likely get ever tougher to make ends meet on one income.
Lesson 7: Don’t look back. My father’s store was so small that he needed to display most of the merchandise out on the street on folding tables. He needed someone to watch that people didn’t steal the merchandise. So, as a young teenager, I would do it on some Saturdays. (I was no more intimidating as a security guard then than I am now.) One day, when business was slow, I asked my dad, “How come you rarely talk about the Holocaust?” I’ll never forget his answer. He said, “The Nazis took five years from my life. I won’t give them one minute more. Martin, don’t look back; look forward.”
We’ve all had bad things happen to us: Our parents abused us; our romantic partner left us; we made bad choices; we may have been victim of racism, sexism, classism, lookism, or homophobia. But the vast majority of my successful clients and the other successful people I know do not wallow; they rarely look back; they do look forward. They ask themselves, “What’s the next positive little step I can take.” I can offer you no better advice.
So, to summarize, may you all look forward, may you all not procrastinate (too much,) may you savor every moment because life goes faster than you can possibly realize, may you ask for what you want (as long as it’s ethical,) may you be kind (not a doormat but kind,) may you spend smart and save smart, and may you work hard. But today, have a lot of fun. You’ve earned it.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
- President-elect Barack Obama is looking to FDR as a model in battling the recession. Yet, as Independent Institute Senior Fellow and historian Robert Higgs has shown, FDR’s policies never ended the Depression—which in fact lasted until 1945—and thus the New Deal should only be seen as a foolish model for extending economic malaise for more than a decade. Higgs’s analysis of the bailouts and other economic troubles has been cited by everyone from the Christian Science Monitor to John Stossel to the New York Times to Rush Limbaugh.
- Also, even if the New Deal in a small way helped boost the U.S. economy, that's little evidence the help today would outweight its liabilities. Then, the U.S. was hegemonic. Today, China and India are competing with us, and winning. We can't afford to spend huge percentages of GDP on schemes that the private sector deemed unprofitable. That is likely to accelerate the U.S.'s decline.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
- Like match.com, but for matching high-ability kids with mentors.
- A book called America's Most Overrated Product: Higher Education. It would consist of statistics but more important, stories of people for whom higher education was not worth the direct and opportunity costs.
- A lawsuit on behalf of high-ability elementary school students, the kids with the greatest potential to solve society's problems. Today's public schools are controlled by anti-bright-student pressures, for example No Child Left Behind, which, in many schools, has resulted in almost all money and effort being diverted from high-ability to low-achieving students. The result is that bright kids are being denied their right to a basic education--education cannot occur unless students are learning what they don't already know. Their miseducation also violates equal protection statutes: they are receiving a far less appropriate education than are their average or below-average achieving peers.
- Writer for the National Organization for Men, of which I am co-president. (My co-president is the eminent men's advocate, Dr. Warren Farrell.) We need an excellent writer willing to regularly write compelling op-eds.
Over 650 dissenting scientists from around the globe challenged man-made global warming claims made by the United Nations Intergovernemntal Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and former Vice President Al Gore. This new 231-page U.S. Senate Minority Report report -- updated from 2007’s groundbreaking report of over 400 scientists who voiced skepticism about the so-called global warming “consensus” -- features the skeptical voices of over 650 prominent international scientists, including many current and former UN IPCC scientists, who have now turned against the UN IPCC. This updated report includes an additional 250 (and growing) scientists and climate researchers since the initial release in December 2007. The over 650 dissenting scientists are more than 12 times the number of UN scientists (52) who authored the media-hyped IPCC 2007 Summary for Policymakers.
The chorus of skeptical scientific voices grow louder in 2008 as a steady stream of peer-reviewed studies, analyses, real world data and inconvenient developments challenged the UN and former Vice President Al Gore's claims that the "science is settled" and there is a "consensus." On a range of issues, 2008 proved to be challenging for the promoters of man-made climate fears. Promoters of anthropogenic warming fears endured the following: Global temperatures failing to warm; Peer-reviwed studies predicting a continued lack of warming; a failed attempt to revive the discredited “Hockey Stick”; inconvenient developments and studies regarding CO2; the Sun; Clouds; Antarctica; the Arctic; Greenland; Mount Kilimanjaro; Hurricanes; Extreme Storms; Floods; Ocean Acidification; Polar Bears; lack of atmosphieric dust; the failure of oceans to warm and rise as predicted.
In addition, the following developments further secured 2008 as the year the “consensus” collapsed. Russian scientists “rejected the very idea that carbon dioxide may be responsible for global warming”. An American Physical Society editor conceded that a “considerable presence” of scientific skeptics exist. An International team of scientists countered the UN IPCC, declaring: “Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate”. India Issued a report challenging global warming fears. International Scientists demanded the UN IPCC “be called to account and cease its deceptive practices,” and a canvass of more than 51,000 Canadian scientists revealed 68% disagree that global warming science is “settled.”
This new report issued by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee's office of the GOP Ranking Member is the latest evidence of the growing groundswell of scientific opposition challenging significant aspects of the claims of the UN IPCC and Al Gore. Scientific meetings are now being dominated by a growing number of skeptical scientists. The prestigious International Geological Congress, dubbed the geologists' equivalent of the Olympic Games, was held in
Even the mainstream media has begun to take notice of the expanding number of scientists serving as “consensus busters.” A November 25, 2008 article in Politico noted that a “growing accumulation” of science is challenging warming fears, and added that the “science behind global warming may still be too shaky to warrant cap-and-trade legislation.”
Skeptical scientists are gaining recogniction despite what many say is a bias against them in parts of the scientific community and are facing significant funding disadvantages. Dr. William M. Briggs, a climate statistician who serves on the American Meteorological Society's Probability and Statistics Committee, explained that his colleagues described “absolute horror stories of what happened to them when they tried getting papers published that explored non-‘consensus’ views.” Briggs, in a March 4, 2008, report, described the behavior as “really outrageous and unethical behavior on the parts of some editors. I was shocked.” (LINK) [Note: An August 2007 report detailed how proponents of man-made global warming fears enjoy a monumental funding advantage over skeptical scientists. LINK and a July 2007 Senate report detailing how skeptical scientists have faced threats and intimidation - LINK & LINK ]
Highlights of the Updated 2008 Senate Minority Report featuring over 650 international scientists dissenting from man-made climate fears:
“I am a skeptic…Global warming has become a new religion.” - Nobel Prize Winner for Physics, Ivar Giaever.
“Since I am no longer affiliated with any organization nor receiving any funding, I can speak quite frankly….As a scientist I remain skeptical. “The main basis of the claim that man’s release of greenhouse gases is the cause of the warming is based almost entirely upon climate models. We all know the frailty of models concerning the air-surface system” - Atmospheric Scientist Dr. Joanne Simpson, the first woman in the world to receive a PhD in meteorology, and formerly of NASA, who has authored more than 190 studies and has been called “among the most preeminent scientists of the last 100 years.”
Warming fears are the “worst scientific scandal in the history…When people come to know what the truth is, they will feel deceived by science and scientists.” - UN IPCC Japanese Scientist Dr. Kiminori Itoh, an award-winning PhD environmental physical chemist.
“The IPCC has actually become a closed circuit; it doesn’t listen to others. It doesn’t have open minds… I am really amazed that the Nobel Peace Prize has been given on scientifically incorrect conclusions by people who are not geologists,” - Indian geologist Dr. Arun D. Ahluwalia at Punjab University and a board member of the UN-supported International Year of the Planet.
“So far, real measurements give no ground for concern about a catastrophic future warming.” - Scientist Dr. Jarl R. Ahlbeck, a chemical engineer at
“Anyone who claims that the debate is over and the conclusions are firm has a fundamentally unscientific approach to one of the most momentous issues of our time.” - Solar physicist Dr. Pal Brekke, senior advisor to the Norwegian Space Centre in
“The models and forecasts of the UN IPCC "are incorrect because they only are based on mathematical models and presented results at scenarios that do not include, for example, solar activity.” - Victor Manuel Velasco Herrera, a researcher at the
“It is a blatant lie put forth in the media that makes it seem there is only a fringe of scientists who don’t buy into anthropogenic global warming.” - U.S Government Atmospheric Scientist Stanley B. Goldenberg of the Hurricane Research Division of NOAA.
“Even doubling or tripling the amount of carbon dioxide will virtually have little impact, as water vapour and water condensed on particles as clouds dominate the worldwide scene and always will.” – . Geoffrey G. Duffy, a professor in the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering of the
“After reading [UN IPCC chairman] Pachauri's asinine comment [comparing skeptics to] Flat Earthers, it's hard to remain quiet.” - Climate statistician Dr. William M. Briggs, who specializes in the statistics of forecast evaluation, serves on the American Meteorological Society's Probability and Statistics Committee and is an Associate Editor of Monthly Weather Review.
“Nature's regulatory instrument is water vapor: more carbon dioxide leads to less moisture in the air, keeping the overall GHG content in accord with the necessary balance conditions.” – Prominent Hungarian Physicist and environmental researcher Dr. Miklós Zágoni reversed his view of man-made warming and is now a skeptic. Zágoni was once
“For how many years must the planet cool before we begin to understand that the planet is not warming? For how many years must cooling go on?" - Geologist Dr. David Gee the chairman of the science committee of the 2008 International Geological Congress who has authored 130 plus peer reviewed papers, and is currently at
“Gore prompted me to start delving into the science again and I quickly found myself solidly in the skeptic camp…Climate models can at best be useful for explaining climate changes after the fact.” - Meteorologist Hajo Smit of
“The quantity of CO2 we produce is insignificant in terms of the natural circulation between air, water and soil... I am doing a detailed assessment of the UN IPCC reports and the Summaries for Policy Makers, identifying the way in which the Summaries have distorted the science.” - South Afican Nuclear Physicist and Chemical Engineer Dr. Philip Lloyd, a UN IPCC co-coordinating lead author who has authored over 150 refereed publications.
“Many [scientists] are now searching for a way to back out quietly (from promoting warming fears), without having their professional careers ruined.” - Atmospheric physicist James A. Peden, formerly of the Space Research and
“All those urging action to curb global warming need to take off the blinkers and give some thought to what we should do if we are facing global cooling instead” - Geophysicist Dr. Phil Chapman, an astronautical engineer and former NASA astronaut, served as staff physicist at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
“Creating an ideology pegged to carbon dioxide is a dangerous nonsense…The present alarm on climate change is an instrument of social control, a pretext for major businesses and political battle. It became an ideology, which is concerning.” - Environmental Scientist Professor Delgado Domingos of
“CO2 emissions make absolutely no difference one way or another….Every scientist knows this, but it doesn’t pay to say so…Global warming, as a political vehicle, keeps Europeans in the driver’s seat and developing nations walking barefoot.” - Dr. Takeda Kunihiko, vice-chancellor of the
“The [global warming] scaremongering has its justification in the fact that it is something that generates funds.” - Award-winning Paleontologist Dr. Eduardo Tonni, of the Committee for Scientific Research in
“Whatever the weather, it's not being caused by global warming. If anything, the climate may be starting into a cooling period.” Atmospheric scientist Dr. Art V. Douglas, former Chair of the Atmospheric Sciences Department at
“But there is no falsifiable scientific basis whatever to assert this warming is caused by human-produced greenhouse gasses because current physical theory is too grossly inadequate to establish any cause at all.” - Chemist Dr. Patrick Frank, who has authored more than 50 peer-reviewed articles.
“The ‘global warming scare’ is being used as a political tool to increase government control over American lives, incomes and decision making. It has no place in the Society's activities.” - Award-Winning NASA Astronaut/Geologist and Moonwalker Jack Schmitt who flew on the Apollo 17 mission and formerly of the Norwegian Geological Survey and for the U.S. Geological Survey.
“Earth has cooled since 1998 in defiance of the predictions by the UN-IPCC….The global temperature for 2007 was the coldest in a decade and the coldest of the millennium…which is why ‘global warming’ is now called ‘climate change.’” - Climatologist Dr. Richard Keen of the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the
“I have yet to see credible proof of carbon dioxide driving climate change, yet alone man-made CO2 driving it. The atmospheric hot-spot is missing and the ice core data refute this. When will we collectively awake from this deceptive delusion?” - Dr. G LeBlanc Smith, a retired Principal Research Scientist with