Justin McCurry – Retiree at thirty-three

Justin McCurry retired at age 33, and is the author of Root of Good where he writes about minimizing financial stresses and maximizing fortunes of all types – these are his good things.

Good things to read.

The Economist. This weekly periodical claims to “offer authoritative insight and opinion on international news, politics, business, finance, science and technology”. In other words, they discuss everything that interests me. I get a digest email from The Economist each week highlighting the top stories (and that’s the only news I subscribe to). At least half the stories in the digest are “must reads”. Once I get to their site, I can’t stop clicking and reading. During law school I would occasionally skip class and sit in a quiet corner of the law library and indulgently read copies of The Economist from cover to cover.

How to Win Friends & Influence People. In 1937, Dale Carnegie wrote a timeless classic. If you’re a numbers person, a technical dude, have received a lobotomy, or are just a general ass to other people, then this is a great book to read. It’s chock full of common sense methods to improve the way in which you deal with other people. The book teaches you how to make others like you and how to be a better leader and motivator. I’m not a fan of the self help genre, but feel this is such a great resource you can’t pass it up.

Every Man Dies Alone. Beautifully written historical fiction (based on real people) by Hans Fallada. Set in World War II Nazi Germany, the main protagonists make clandestine attempts to seed discontent against the Nazi regime among their fellow German citizens, risking arrest and possible execution. In history class, you learn about Nazi Germany and the atrocities committed by the Third Reich. I always wondered “why didn’t the people see how wrong their government was, rise up, and fight back?”. This book answers my question. Like the main characters in Every Man Dies Alone, some brave citizens did rise up and fight back in their own way. The book also does a great job portraying the politically controlled atmosphere in Berlin under the Nazis. Which explains why so many thought it easier to not speak out to challenge the government that they grew to hate. There were lots of good people who were deeply oppressed and scared for their own lives and those of their family’s. I had a hard time putting this book down.

Good things to watch.

Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. Anthony Bourdain is known for traveling overseas to out of the way places and eating all kinds of delicious foods. And filming it. He continues the trend in Parts Unknown. But this is more than just a food documentary. Bourdain explores the history and culture of the locations he visits, and uses food as a medium to explore the place and its people. Each episode focuses on a different city or country. So far, I have most enjoyed the episodes on South Africa (where racial tension and relics of apartheid remain today), Sicily (where Bourdain visits an Agriturismo), Granada, Spain (oh so much delicious food and wonderful tapas culture), and the Congo (where Bourdain revisits the places described in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness), It’s a shame only 16 episodes have aired so far. I’m starving for more!

Californication. David Duchovny, of X-Files fame, plays an unstable Hank Moody, a writer that struggles to write and struggles to maintain relationships with his baby mamma, his daughter, his friends, well, everyone really. Duchovny is awesome in Californication. He’s not the Agent Mulder you used to know. Excellent writing, with humor sometimes subtle enough that it might slip past you if you don’t pay close attention.

Homeland. The main character, Brody, is a decorated Marine captured by Al Qaeda during the Iraq War and held captive for eight years. Eventually, he manages to break free and return to the US as a celebrated war hero, and eventually rise to fame in politics. But there’s intrigue. Is he really a patriot? Or a secret Al Qaeda agent? A somewhat rogue agent from the CIA tries to find out. Watch the show for the rest of the story. Homeland = suspense. It’s returning for season four in 2014. Catch all the old episodes before then.

Good things to use.

The Kitchen. Learn to cook if you can’t. If you’re already a chef, keep improving and diversifying your menu. Food is a gateway into other cultures and other lands. You get the pleasure of making something delicious and nutritious for yourself, your family, and your friends. I’m not saying get all fancy. Figure out how to make a good omelet, tasty stir fry, and perfect pasta with a few sauces. Buy more seasonal fresh vegetables and force yourself to do something delicious with them. You’ll save money and eat healthier.

Sense of Humor. The ability to laugh off difficult or troubling situations and minor annoyances will greatly ease your journey through life. Is somebody being a jerk to you? Their life probably sucks more than yours does, so just laugh. Maybe not in their face, because jerks tend to dislike having someone laugh in their face. But later, during a time of calm reflection and introspection, just laugh. And don’t be afraid to smile either. So many things in life we cannot control. But we can control our reactions and our feelings. Find the humor in all things. Laugh. Smile. Your lighthearted attitude will be contagious.

Spreadsheets. I’m kind of a numbers/finance geek. Spreadsheets have been immensely helpful in my daily life. I can analyze complex situations and compare alternatives. I can forecast my finances and track my spending. Spreadsheets have no fear of huge quantities of data or burdensome calculations and comparisons. I keep track of all kinds of things in spreadsheets. To continue the food theme, I even have a spreadsheet to calculate “how many pizzas do I need for my kid’s birthday party” with inputs for number of toddlers, young kids, teenagers, and adults. I have a “Thanksgiving” spreadsheet that shows what we cook for our 30 guests each year, and I record leftovers or shortfalls for particular dishes so I can optimize the menu for the next year’s Thanksgiving dinner. I told you I was a numbers geek! I use Microsoft Excel (obtained free or cheap through work or school) and Google Drive Spreadsheets, but really any spreadsheet app should work fine to help you quantitatively optimize your life.

Connect with Justin on Twitter, @RootofGoodBlog.

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