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Brian Staveley – Author

After teaching literature, philosophy, history, and religion for more than a decide, Brian began writing epic fantasy. His first book, The Emperor’s Blades (put out by Tor Books in January), is the start of his series, Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne. has been good enough to release the first seven chapters as a teaser.

Brian lives on a steep dirt road in the mountains of southern Vermont, where he divides his time between fathering, writing, husbanding, splitting wood, skiing, and adventuring, not necessarily in that order.  These are his good things.

Good things to read.

The Last Samurai.  There’s no relation here, to the horrible Tom Cruise movie. The Last Samurai I’m talking about is a novel by Helet DeWitt about a single mother in London struggling to raise a super-genius of a young boy, and about that boy’s struggle to find a father figure he can believe it. Hysterically funny, tragic, smart, and compassionate.

Mr. Wuffles. I groaned when my two-year-old pulled this one off the shelf in the library. It looked like a boring picture book about cats. To my delight, it is, in fact, a tale of interstellar first contact, busted hyper-drives, enormous and malevolent predators, and cooperation against the odds. Also, Cheez-Its play an important role in cementing the friendship between alien races.

A News Outlet with a Different Political Slant.   I saw a depressing chart recently (of course, I can’t find it now) indicating that we (Americans) have become more polarized in our reading choices. More than ever, conservatives read conservative newspapers, books, and magazines, while liberals read liberal stuff. This is a disaster. We don’t and shouldn’t agree about everything, but it’s worth knowing what the other half of the country thinks and why.

Good things to watch.

Fire.  There’s not much of a plot to a campfire or a roaring blaze on the hearth, but while there are thousands of hours of television that I’ve regretted watching, I can’t say I look back on any evening around a campfire and think, “I really should have been watching reruns of Family Feud.”

Unforgiven.  This 1992 western starring Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, and Morgan Freeman was one of the great disappointments of my childhood. I rented it hoping for wise-cracking, gun-slinging heroics. I wanted Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday. Instead I got a dark tale about vengeance and loss, one in which there didn’t seem to be any good guys, no one was particularly clever or particularly beautiful, and everyone is over the hill. I didn’t watch it again for maybe five or six years, when it immediately claimed the number one spot on my list of favorite movies. It has yet to be dethroned.

Figure Skating.   What’s not to like? Unbelievable athleticism. Brutal wipe-outs. Sequined costumes. Great music. Bitter rivalries. Doesn’t get any better than that.

Good things to use.

Studded Snow Tires.  Granted, if you live in Baton Rouge or Dallas, snow tires might not prove the most practical investment, but I live in Vermont, and it’s no exaggeration to say they are one of my favorite possessions. There’s no sensation quite as awful as that moment at the top of a long, steep, unplowed dirt road when you feel your car start to drift beneath you, a horror that is multiplied ten-fold if your kid’s in the car. On the flip side, there’s nothing like looking out the window, seeing the snow’s a foot deep on the ground, and thinking, “No problem.” Freedom of movement and peace of mind – the ultimate luxuries.

Heavy Clay Poker Chips.   Even losing money feels good when you’re not playing with those shitty plastic chips.

Google Calendar.  It’s free. It syncs automatically across devices. You can share all relevant information with all relevant people. It’s utterly intuitive. This isn’t to say I use it – I’m still wedded to the massive paper thing stuck to the refrigerator, but then, I’m an idiot.

Connect with Brian on Twitter, @brianstaveley, Facebook as brianstaveley, and Google+ as Brian Staveley.

Deacon Hayes – Well Kept Wallet

Deacon Hayes is the financial expert at Well Kept Wallet where he helps people through writing, consulting, and coaching. These are his good things.

Good things to read.

Good to Great by Jim Collins. This book dives into what makes “good” companies “great”. I have learned so much from it as a business owner, however, there are many ways that you could apply the principles of this book to your everyday life. One of the things that stands out the most is the Stockdale Paradox. James Stockdale was a POW that eventually got his freedom. Collins says in his book,”You must retain faith that you can prevail to greatness in the end, while retaining the discipline to confront the brutal facts of your current reality.” It is important to be optimistic about life but you also have to embrace the reality of your situation to move forward. So many people are unrealistically optimistic and end up going bankrupt or going out of business.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. This book is great because it is an in-depth study of people that are Outliers like Bill Gates, The Beatles, etc and why they were so successful. One of my biggest takeaways was the 10,000 hour rule that states in order for you to be an expert at something you need to put in at least 10,000 hours. From Gladwell’s research all of these people did just that and it shows that if we want to be an expert at something, we have to invest the time to make that happen.

The Pumpkin Plan by Mike Michalowicz. I am reading this right now and there are many similarities to the first book I mentioned Good to Great. However, he really focuses on how to be good at something by following the example of growing the biggest pumpkin. In a nutshell, in order to grow the biggest pumpkin you need to plant with the right seed and get rid of the unhealthy pumpkins and focus only on the one that has the best chance to win. This helped me to re-evaluate my business and weed out the “bad pumpkins” so that I can focus on what will really give me the best results at the end of the day.

Good things to watch.

Shark Tank. I love this show because it highlights what investors look for in a a business to which they are willing to invest capital. If you are an entrepreneur or just love hearing about new business ideas, I highly recommend checking out this show.

I’m Fine Thanks. This is a documentary about complacency in America. A crew of guys drives around the United States and interview people from all walks of life that at one point were miserable with the way that there life was going. Then they decided to do something about it. To stop being complacent and pursue something that they loved. One guy goes from being a lawyer to being a Yoga instructor in NYC and loves it. Another guy decided to buy a school bus and live out of it with his family. It is a great movie that helps you think outside the box of how you can actually start pursuing your dreams today.

Pitch Perfect. This movie is about College students who compete in A Capella. It doesn’t sound like much, but the classic one liner’s along with the song choices for this movie make it a great watch. If you are into music and enjoy a good laugh than this is a must see.

Good things to use.

My Fitness Pal. Tracking what I eat and my exercise routines is super helpful for me to stay fit and hit my health goals. This app allows you to scan the bar-codes of your food or just manually enter in the info so that you can monitor your eating habits so you can stay on track. It also allows you to enter in your exercises so that you can track you strength training and cardio as well.

Google Calendar. If it wasn’t for this calendar I would be lost. It reminds of meetings that I need to go to ahead of time, it tells me when people’s birthdays are, I even use it to enter tasks that I need to get done so that I remember to do them. It is truly one of the most useful apps out there.

Audible. I am an auditory learner so this app/service is amazing. I get one audiobook a month and I can listen to it anywhere I go through my cellphone. I even have a bluetooth radio in my car so I can listen to these books with ease while driving. If you like to listen to books instead of reading them, this is a good resource.

Carrie Smith – financial strategist

These are Carrie Smith’s good things.

Good things to read.

The Start-up of You by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha. This book makes up my top five list of books I’ve read in the past two years. We all need to invest in ourselves to be successful — to treat our lives and careers as a start-up!

Dream Save Do by Warren and Betsy Talbot. I already read the first edition of this book and fell in love with it, but the second edition is even better. If you want to turn your dreams into a living, breathing reality then this book will give you the tools you need to succeed.

The Pumpkin Plan by Michael Michalowicz. This book is a fantastic combination of all the business books out there. All of the best but simple business principles are wrapped up into this book, with some excellent analogies to learn from.

Good things to watch.

ABC’s Shark Tank. I’ve learned a ton of business lessons from this show. The most important one, is to know your numbers — no matter what kind of business you run, if you’re in a leadership position this is vital.

Chopped. A show about food, competition and money? Yes please! Just like in life, in order to win the prize you’ve got to be creative, work well with others and keep your cool under pressure. This food competition show is a guilty pleasure of mine!

The Cosby Show. This is a classic and Bill Cosby is by far my favorite actor. This show is lighthearted, funny and entertaining. It totally hits me with a dose of nostalgia from the 80’s and 90’s.

Good things to use.

A spending plan. Yes, as a financial geek I had to sneak that in here! Without a spending plan (aka budget) I wouldn’t be debt-free, be able to invest for the future, or save up for a month-long summer vacation this year. Seriously, a spending plan will change your financial life!

An eReader. Electronic books and eReaders are a must-have, and I would be lost without my iPad, with both iBooks and Kindle apps. Of course a Kindle or Nook is just as great too, you don’t know what you’re missing till you get an eReader.

Google Calendar. Stop trying to remember everything, keep track of everything and do everything. Write down all your to-do lists, tasks and meetings into Google Calendar. You’ll be surprised how clear your head becomes (and how much more productive you become) when you don’t have all those things floating around.