My Experience Rule 5: Invest in Others

Rule Five: Invest in Others

While they call it “Invest in Others”, this really feels like philanthropy. In their book, Happy Money, Elizabeth and Michael provide a lot of compelling arguments that some of the best return on happiness comes from donating to others. However, if your donations have these attributes, the donation delivers you the most happiness.

  1. Make it a choice
  2. Make a connection
  3. Make an impact

When you feel like it’s a choice, you feel empowered. As a friend of mine once joked, “Barney the Dinosaur is a socialist”

“How can you say that?” I asked

“Because if you want to share its philanthropy. If you have to give, it’s socialism.”

The point being, that a key ingredient in effectively investing in others is our own feelings of self-control and self-efficacy.

After you get to choose where your hard-earned dollars go, the next step in the ladder toward happy philanthropy is to make a connection with the people you are helping. Finally, what will help cement the good will is the feeling that you made a difference. Successful, happy philanthropists want to know that made an impact.

And as I look back, I would say one of the very best things I ever did that combined nearly all of these 5 ideas was my trip to Guatemala with my daughter Rebecca. We went with a Christian Faith based Non-Profit group called Outreach for World Hope.

In her book Tears Water the Seeds of Hope, Kim Tews writes about how she created an amazing ministry in Central America that helps the poorest of the poor.

I was intruded to Kim and her husband Randy through my friend Chris. It started out innocently enough. I went to a National Honor Society meeting at our local high school. Normally when I go to these things, my goal is to not fall asleep and embarrass my wife. I never expected to walk away with a life changing idea.

But that’s what happened. The incoming president of the class of 2016 NHS, gave a speech about Philanthropy and she said something like this (I paraphrase), “We have to trust that work we are doing actually helps someone.”

Looking back, she was directly commenting on the 3 core items revealed by Happy Money. Most of the charity events the kids worked on were not of their choosing, they were handed work. Secondly, they never met anyone they helped. Finally, there was no method of feedback. They could never see the impact of their efforts.

I left the room thinking about how my own charitable activities, both personally and through GameTruck had been sufficiently sanitized to the point that, while I have more control over who I donate to or support, I never make a connection and I couldn’t think of any meaningful impact.

I don’t feel like I wasted my time, but I started to feel extremely disconnected. Like all this Philanthropy had become extremely sterile. I shared these feelings with Chris at my weekly bible study group and he said, “Hey you want to go to Guatemala?”

My initial reaction was, “Lord no!” But before those words came out of my mouth, I realized that was exactly what I needed to do. I needed to get outside my comfort zone. And so, that’s what I did. And I can tell you that going to Guatemala was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, not only for me, but also for my daughter.

The trip itself is another story for another day, but looking back it touched on 4 of the 5 rules and hit all three of the rule five attributes.

  1. We bought an experience, not a thing.
  2. It was definitely a treat, something we looked forward to.
  3. We paid first, and consumed later
  4. We invested in others
    • We got to choose what we worked on
    • We made connections with the people we helped
    • We got to see the work help the people immediately

Looking back, I would say that single trip maximized nearly every attribute of the Happy Money principles and it was one that changed multiple lives including my own.

My Experience with Rule 4: Pay First, Consume Later

Rule Four: Pay First, Consume Later

I would say that the closest I have come to using this philosophy has been in 2 areas.

  1. Taking a cruise.
  2. Language learning.
  3. Our Mission Trip

With the cruise, we paid for everything, the tickets, the plane flight the whole thing four our family in advance. I didn’t realize it at the time but this was an example of Pay First, consumer later. Once we were on the cruise ship we felt like there was nothing else to spend money on. Of course, there was, but we enjoyed the food and entertainment to the max.

Looking back on it, the only thing that was off for me was the one time we went to the steak house for dinner. The ship had an upscale steak house and while it was nice, I don’t think we enjoyed it nearly as much as we did the free pizza on the back of the ship at midnight.

Along those lines, we also paid for all the excursions in advance, which made for a lot more fun because I wasn’t pulling my wallet out every hour (or every ten minutes) which has happened at some theme parks in the US.

For language learning, I knew I needed to get fluent and fast in Spanish. As a result, I bought 10 lessons and paid up front. I was able to take four lessons before I went to central America and it made a HUGE difference in my ability to communicate.

Now, I look at the remaining six lessons as fun self-improvement time and I look forward to them.

I realize in retrospect our mission trip was a lot like the cruise. We paid all the costs up front – tickets, hotel, contribution to the program. That left us free to enjoy our time and focus on our mission (more about that later).

As I reflect on 2016, and look forward into 2017 I am going to try and do more Pay First, Consumer Later strategies.

 

My Experience with Rule 2: Make It a Treat

Rule Two: Make It a Treat

I have not had as much success with this rule. I realize the idea behind it, but one of the challenges of making something a treat is that it then falls outside your normal routine. for me this translates into needing to exert more effort in order to attain the thing I am after.

In his excellent book, the Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg relates how we can use rewards to build habits we want to have. From that perspective, I combined the Make It a Treat, to help build a habit that keeps me (mostly) on target with eating healthy.

I found I do better when I have a food plan for the day. If I don’t, then I tend to eat whatever and at the end of the day I’m angry and frustrated with myself. But expecting my brain to have all the resources it needs to turn down brownies in the snack room when I am feeling depleted usually does not turn out the way I want.

So, having a plan, and assembling, snacks ahead of time, has given me more control over my diet and consequently my health.

The result of this I really felt on my two most recent trips abroad. I am over 50 years old (51 now actually) and despite the demands of taking red-eye flights, long layovers to take long flights to central, and later south America, I was able to keep my energy high, my focus intact and on two different occasions, I worked long days without fatigue.

Even I was stunned at my sustained energy level. I am convinced that all of this was the accumulated healthy and wellness from my habit of using “treats” to build better eating habits. A treat could be as simple as an Isagenix eShot in an unsweetened Green Tea, or some healthy low carb snacks my wife put together.

Green Ice Tea

I am not sure why, but treats to me always translates into food. I supposed you could use it for anything like a bottle of ink, or a video game, or maybe a new book, but for me I always associated this habit with food.

And I would say that when you limit your access to a something, it does tend to increase its perceived value and makes it easier to enjoy.

If you combine this idea with the habits found in Joy on Demand: The Art of Discovery the Happiness Within by Chade-Meng Tan, you can build up a pretty potent habit for increasing your day to day happiness with some simple techniques.

 

My Experience with Rule 1: Buy Experiences Not Things

Rule One: Buy Experiences Not Things

Before I even heard of the book, my family and I put this into practice, not once but twice. First in 2013, instead of having another present laden Christmas, we took the money and bought tickets to Australia. Ryan, was invited to play in the Good Will Games, and the rest of us were able to go along.

It was one of the best Christmas ever. Now did we give up gifts entirely? No. Stacy, with her wonderful wisdom, bought small gifts for each of us. But it was the total experience, and the novelty of Australian Chocolate and treats that none of us will ever forget. I still remember the “cool” water bottle I got that Christmas morning in Adelaide.

Two years later, we did it again by taking a Cruise over Christmas and New Years to the Western Caribbean. The results were similar. I can tell you that I hardly remember any gift I got in 2015, but I still wear the watch I got on the cruise ship with fondness, and my memories of the selfie the three kids took on Roatan, Honduras is still the lock screen on my phone. It was one of the happiest memories of our lives.

That was money well spent.

Of all the rules, I would say this is one of the ones that I have never regretted.

Note: There is a corollary to this rule I have been playing with. Derek Sivers, the author of Anything You Want, and a frequent hero of Tim Ferris, said in the book Tools of Titans that he would put the following billboard outside every Mall in the world.

It Won’t Make You Happy.

I took that to mean exactly what Rule One is about. Things won’t make you happy.   Lately I have been thinking about that more and more, as I troll Amazon looking for things I don’t have.  “It won’t make you happy”, keeps running through my head.

I have found it a powerful tool to focus my attention on the expenditures that have a better chance of making me happy… like buying experiences I will never forget.

My Experience with Happy Money – Part 1

Happy Money

I recently read the book Happy Money by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton. The book is clever and as the authors like to point out, there are 17,000 books on Amazon to tell you how to get more money. They wanted to write a book to tell you how to get more happiness from the money you have.

Their book delivers 5 guiding principles.

  1. Buy experiences not things: We humans acclimate fast and the novelty of new wears offquickly, experiences however can create positive memories that last a life time.
  2. Make purchases a treat: Along the line of 1, about ability to adjust fast can make something that was once special, ordinary and boring. Making it a treat helps sustain the emotional payoff.
  3. Buy Time: We often lose sight of the fact that we don’t have time to enjoy the things we buy. Buying time can allow us to enjoy items 1 and 2 more.
  4. Pay First, Consume Later: Turns out, paying first builds anticipation, and there’s no dread after consumption. So, you get more “happy” for the same money.
  5. Invest in Others: Turns out, spending money on others delivers some of the biggest happiness returns science has measured.

In my personal experience, I can vouch that I have tested all 5 of these principles to some degree and I have found at least some validity in them.

Over the next few weeks, I will share personal experiences for each of the rules and my findings. Starting next week with, Rule One, buy experiences not things.

 

Unstuffing Your Life – My Progress Report

I made a post earlier about the audio book, Unstuff your life by Andrew J Mellen. As far as Audiobooks go Andrew is a highly entertaining speaker and falls into my favorite category of audiobook. Super smart author narrates their own material so you feel like you are having this amazing one on one conversation and they are talking just to you enthusiastically sharing what they know.

Andrew even makes it playful and interacts with the listener. An adult version of Blues Clue’s.

My first project applying the book was to tackle my storage closet. I wish I had the before image, but really, who takes pictures of overcrowded junk? Let’s just say when I started I could not even walk into the closet. But when I was finished (it took a weekend), not only could you walk in, but there are actually empty shelves!

UnStuff Your Life: Storage Closet

UnStuff Your Life: Empty Shelves

Unstuff Your Life: The Rules to Clean All Your Living Spaces.

After listening to the audiobook, I have come to distill the book down to three core rules.

  1. The One Home Rule
  2. The Like with Like Rule
  3. The Frozen Rule (Let it Go)

Andrew publishes his three core rules on his website, so I don’t feel like I am giving anything away from the book. Besides, I could not possibly capture his energy and enthusiasm in a blog post. The man is worth listening too.

The One Home rule and Like with Like

Scott Adams wrote about how important it is to have Systems for Success, not just goals. Andrew Mellen’s book is just that, a system and the core of the system are the twin rules, One home for everything, and like with like. The idea is that you live in one home, so should your stuff. There should be one, and only one place your things live. When they are not in use, they belong in that home. It’s corollary however, is that similar things belong together. Why is this profound? Because when one kind of object can be in many places, that means it can be in every kind of place. It is intrinsically lost.

There is another brain science reason why this is very powerful. In his book Smart Thinking, cognitive scientist Art Markman points out that similar memories compete with one another and more importantly suppress one another during the recall process. When your brain remembers one place to find an object, that process makes it harder to remember other places to look!

Keeping like objects together reduces the chances of memory suppression.

Blue Masking Tape.

If you had asked me before I read this book, how many roles of blue masking tape were in my house I would have said, “One, possibly two, in fact I should probably stop at the store on my way home and pick up another role.”

UnStuff Your Life: Like with Like

After sorting my storage closet, and gathering my masking tape with all of their brethren I discovered eight roles of tape. Yes. Eight.

Apparently, I really like blue masking tape.

The Frozen Rule

The key to unclutter however is what I call the “Frozen Rule”. The hit song, “Let it Go” has been sort of my mantra since I started this process. In chapter one of the book, Mr. Mellen pleads with the listener to go through the process of getting clear about his or her values. In short, if I wanted to unstuff my life, I had to get clear about my values. It seemed like a waste of time until I did it. That key piece of information gives you a foundation for knowing what is valuable in your life and what is not.

If you know what you value, then you can measure every object you have surrounded yourself with and decide if it means anything to you. I see lots of calls for minimalism, I study stoicism, and austerity always sounds like a virtue. In my experience however, I was shocked by how many things I had – if not collected at least gathered into my life that I did not care about.

The Rocks

When I hike if I see a cool rock I pick it up. During this process of unstuffing, I started to go through my rocks. Two things jumped out at me. I was shocked at how many rocks I just flat out could not identify. No idea where they came from, or what they meant. Secondly, I was shocked at where they all were. On my desk, in drawers, in the garage, in my closet (apparently I needed rocks to keep my clothes company) even in the bathroom. Don’t ask what I was thinking, I don’t know.

I point that out because these were free. Not the product of consumerism. Just things I had “gathered”. They didn’t qualify as mementos, because I had no memory to go with them. And yet I held onto them and filled my space with them. The first lesson I started to learn is that when something has no meaning, there is no reason to hold on to it.

Hence my rule: Let it go.

Do I still have any rocks? Yes. A few. Ones I exactly know where they came from and what they mean. The collection if you can call it that is down to exactly three.

I still have a long way to go, but for the last two weeks my desk at home and at work has been clear, and I can find my wallet, my car keys, and my phone within 30 seconds of looking for them every time. I mean every time.

Malcome Gladwell in his book Tipping Point, points out that your environment can have a huge impact on your behavior. One small, but significant way to change your environment is to “Unstuff it”. I need to get better at before and after pictures, but so far, I can see some of the value in freeing up some space by “unstuffing it”.

Happy Thanksgiving

There is a lot to be thankful for around the Novis household, and we want to wish you and yours a happy Thanksgiving.

I also wanted to remind you that there is a handy Turkey cooking calculator – it can help you figure out when to start your bird depending upon when you plan to eat and how you plan to cook it.

You can find the Turkey Start Time Calculator by clicking on the link.

Stanford Baseball

Stanford is an amazing place to visit and thia weekend Ryan and I travelled to Palo Alto to visit the Cardinal High School baseball camp.

Stanford Baseball Camp Impressions

So the first thing we noticed when we arrived and walked the campus is the pristine state of everything.  The color schemes, the landscaping, nary a blade of glass was out of place nor a spot of dirt appeared on any building.  Stanford is Disney quality presentation in education.  This seems consistent with Palo Alto’s understated wealth.  No SUVs and Big Trucks here – it’s Teslas and McLarens.  It is hard to comprehend the scale of wealth in this tiny community.

Perhaps this puts it in perspective for a Nationally ranked school that just won the Presidents cup for top athletic program in the country for 20 straight years (1994 to 2014), they only admit 1 in 20 applicants.  The total underclass population is just 7,000 compared to ASU’s 98,000.  And yet the campus feels larger, better maintained and everything about the place feels absolutely top notch.

Stanford leaves you with the impression that this is what excellence looks and feels like.  Palo Alto reminds you that the world will pay top dollar for excellence. 

Sunken Diamond

The Sunken Diamond is among the most beautiful baseball facilities I have been in.  Klein field is intimate and understated but don’t let the trees fool you, there are top notch facilities tucked into this park like campus just out of sight.  The coaches here had no problem deploying 260 ball players to fields, and cages around the campus.   What is more they kept them busy.

The Camp

This is a very interesting camp because of the kinds of players it attracts.  Actually, it’s also about the kinds of coaches it attracts.  More than 40 college coaches help with the camp and every ivy league school except Yale is present. 

image

I actually was able to ask the coach from Harvard how the “Call Me Maybe” Effected their program.  He explained that it was a bit of a headache for his staff because they played that song everywhere they went.  A group of seniors and juniors scripted the video and put it online and it went viral.  The University and Athletic department loved the exposure it generated, however the rival schools had fun with it too.

Big and Talented

Coach Stots, the former head coach for Stanford Baseball for nearly 4 decades opened the camp with an entertaining and energetic speach.  He pointed out that of the 260 ball players – 11% play college at a D1 level.  Of those, only 6% are drafted into the minors.  Of those, only 3% play ONE DAY on the pros.  Getting a college education from baseball is a fantastic opportunity and well worth it.

And yet, I believe a camp like this sorts for the players that are most likely to attend a D1 school and play.  And wow are these kids big.  Most of them are in the six foot one to six foot two range.  There are a slug of kids over six three and a very few below six foot (guess what?  They are wicked fast and they can hit).  But this is what division one ball players look like.  Big, fast, and talented. 

According to Coach Stots there are two kinds of recruit.  Talent and Technique.  Talent, six foot four.  Hits the ball over the fence with a flick of the wrist, throws the ball 100 miles per hour.  There are very few of those.  The rest are technique.  They have some talent.  They have been well coached, and these coaches are looking for players who can fit their program. 

Matt Novis Gets MLB Pitch Hit and Run Love

I don’t know how I missed it, but right after the Home Run Derby, MLB network published this story about the Pitch Hit and Run Competition:

Matt gets several prominent mentions in the article.

Matt With Trophy

I feel it was pretty special that they focused on Matt’s story.

Travel Log Day 2: Part 2 – The Champion

Champion

Blogging on the road is harder than it looks. Well, it is for me. There are a couple of things that made this challenging.

  1. Mixing iPhone and Camera images can be cumbersome and tricky.
  2. RAW (the image format) sounds great in principle. In practice, it doubles the number of images you have to deal with and gobbles up your storage.
  3. It’s hard to have a rhythm when you travel.
  4. If you spend all of your time on your keyboard you might miss the thing you came to see.

So having said all of there, here’s the skinny.

Matt is the 2014 Pitch Hit and Run 13 & 14 National Champion

How about that? It was a close contest. Andy from North Dakota actually hit 4 pitches while Matt only hit 3. After that Matt did what he has always done and just focused on the things he can control.

After the pitching they went to hitting. Andy had a few nice hits off the Tee, but they were pretty far off the center line.

If Matt was going to make up ground, he would have to do it in the hitting. Each pitch is worth 75 points for a maximum total of (6 x 75) 450 points.

Hitting, however is open ended. It is double your distance. The record is a whopping 365 feet – held by a 12 year old believe it or not! That is a 730 point value. More than many kids total score.

Matt’s first hit was a line drive to second base. Not a great start. His second hit was much better, about 275 but thirty feet left of the tape. His last hit was the championship shot. Everyone oohed and ahed when he hit it. I would later find out that it was 294 feet, four inches off the tape. Suddenly Matt was right back in it.

The final challenge was running and both Matt and Andy put in times very close to 7 seconds. The question was, how did they balance out? Was 4 pitches more valuable than Matt’s long hit?

In the end, Matt’s hit made the difference. He was crowned National Champion with a score of 1226.

Matt is named Champion
Matt is Named Champion

Later Matt told me that none of the kids did as well at National as they did at home. There were a couple of reasons for that. First, they have travelled, there is a lot going and it’s a daunting being there. The same thing happened to Ryan’s group.

But, at the end of the day the real award was shagging fly balls in the outfield during the home run derby.

Matt Shagging Fly Balls
Matt Shagging Fly Balls

Matt was out there when Geancarlo Stanton hit his epic blast ¾ of the way up the deck in left field. It was awesome from the seats, I can’t imagine what they looked like from the ground.

I could not be more proud of Matthew. He put in the work, and he earned it.

Photo Stream

If you want to see all 177 photos (integrated from my phone and my camera) as well as the picture of both boys with their trophies, check out my iCloud Pitch Hit and Run 2014 PhotoStream