your money or your life

The Glad Stork – Comic Creator

By day, The Glad Stork works at a soul-crushing corporate job and is an Adjunct IT Professor; by night, he makes comics about parenting, life, and cubicles at TheGladStork.com. These are his good things.

Good things to read.

This Is Water. Sometimes life is tough and it seems like everyone is in your way. This is actually your “default” way of thinking–that the world revolves around you. Get out of your default setting. “This Is Water” is a commencement address given by the late great David Foster Wallace at Kenyon College in 2005. I make a point to reread this at least once a year.

Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed.David Cain writes Raptitude, one of my favorite sources for insight on mindfulness, happiness, and living a good life. This is one of my favorite Raptitude articles. It is a refreshing take on the close knit relationship between the indentured servitude of the 9-5 and our consumerist culture.

Your Money Or Your Life. A dollar spent is a portion of your life spent earning that dollar that you’ll never get back. Spend wisely on the things that matter most to you. Stop thinking of money as something that is used to buy stuff, and instead think of it as something that is used to buy your own time. Your Money Or Your Life should be required reading for all high school kids.

Good things to watch.

23 ½ Hours. Laughter is the best medicine? Wrong. It’s actually a walk. Stay active. Stay healthy. Stay happy.

Everything is amazing and nobody’s happy or Hilarious” on Netflix (28 minutes in). Louis CK says, “We live in an amazing world and it’s wasted on the crappiest generation of spoiled idiots.” Watch him discuss the insane contradiction between our bad attitudes and the amazingness of everything around us.

Marc Maron’s Interview with Robin Williams. This interview is audio only, so I’m cheating the system here. I’m not normally affected by celebrity deaths, but this one got to me. I’ve been watching a lot of Robin Williams interviews, as if to tell myself to face the emotions and let them wash over me and use it to understand the hard times others are going through and to get through my own hard times. I’d recommend the full interview, or skip to 55:34 when Robin discusses the gratitude-driven thought process that got him through the first time he considered suicide.

Good things to use.

Affirmations. If you use computers, you have to change your password frequently. If you’re a functioning adult, you desire positive change in your life. Combine these two seemingly unrelated life aspects to naturally begin using affirmations. Affirmations are the closest thing to real magic I’ve ever seen.

The Circle of Control. I was at a Fourth of July parade with my older brother when we passed a ‘roided out guy in a cutoff t-shirt that said “USA… Back-to-Back World War Champs”. My brother was filled with rage. “What an asshole. Treating death and destruction like a sporting event.” I agree; that guy’s an asshole. But letting an asshole ruin your day is a waste of a day. Instead fill your Circle of Concern with your Circle of Control–devoting time, energy, and thoughts only to the things that you can affect.

Stoicism. Many of the above Good Things are ways of thinking that fall in line with a Stoicism “Life Philosophy”. There was a time when philosophy focused less on answering the unanswerable and more on how to live a purposeful and good life. This book is a very accessible introduction to “The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy”.

Connect with the The Glad Stork on Twitter, @TheGladStork or Facebook.

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Trent Hamm – Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm is the writer and founder of The Simple Dollar, a personal finance site focused on ‘money management and frugality’, these are his good things.

Good things to read.

I am a very, very avid reader, so I’m going to pick three very different things to suggest here just so there’s “something for everyone.”

First, I’d suggest The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. It is epic fantasy, much like the Song of Ice and Fire series that the Game of Thrones series on HBO is based on, but in this case the huge flood of characters is kept under control and the first book alone builds to a tremendous payoff. Add to that Brandon Sanderson’s writing style which flows quite well and manages to keep the internal thoughts of characters interesting and exciting and you have a real winner.

Second, I recommend Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown. It tells the story of the domination of Native Americans during the 19th century from the perspective of the Native Americans. The story it tells will change your perspective on the West and on American history forever while also managing to tell a number of very gripping stories along the way.

Finally, I offer up Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. It’s a personal finance book, but it comes at the issue from a completely different angle than most personal finance books out there. It focuses entirely on living a life in accordance to whatever it is that is personally important to you and looking at how you can make that life possible.

Good things to watch.

First, I’d suggest the film The Third Man, which is almost certainly my favorite film of all time. It’s a mystery of sorts, where a man is investigating the mysterious death of an old friend of his, Harry Lime. Everything about this film is amazing, and I’d argue that the scene on the Ferris wheel with Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten is one of the greatest film scenes of all time.

Second, I’d offer up Cosmos, a documentary series hosted by Carl Sagan that you can currently find on Netflix streaming. Carl Sagan offers a brilliant look at the universe and how its beautiful mysteries can affect our own lives, our own thinking, and our own spirituality. While some of the specific scientific facts might be a bit dated, Sagan’s commentary and philosophy remain incredibly powerful and likely will for a very long time.

Finally, I’d include 12 Angry Men, which works as a stage play or as a film. It does an incredible job of bringing the personal histories of the people to life in a way that really makes you reconsider why people do and say the things they do.

Good things to use.

My favorite things to use are items that work well and are almost infinitely reliable.

My first choice is the Razorpit razor blade sharpener, which enables you to easily sharpen a disposable or cartridge-based razor by simply rubbing it back and forth a few times on the Razorpit. I’ve been able to use a single razor cartridge for months thanks to this.

My second choice is a Le Creuset 5 1/2 quart enameled cast iron pot. These can be expensive, but they come with a 101 year guarantee. They also can be used to cook pretty much anything. I’ve made scrambled eggs, prepared a casserole, baked fish, and made a cake inside of mine.

My final choice is a Houdini lever-style corkscrew, which makes opening bottles of wine trivially easy. My wife and I have a glass of wine with many evening meals, which means we open multiple bottles a week. Before this device, we smashed a lot of corks and even ruined some bottles of wine with cork pieces., but not any more. It also reduces the uncorking process to about two second.  

To discuss more good things with Trent connect with him on Twitter, @TheSimpleDollar.

Anna Newell Jones – And Then We Saved

Anna writes about her Spending Fast at AndThenWeSaved.com as well as at Babble and WiseBread and these are her good things.

Good things to read.

The Happiness Project: This book had me looking at life in a whole new way. I liked the anecdotes and expert insights into the quest for happiness.

Your Money or Your Life: This was the first personal finance book that I ever read and it helped to change my perspective on finances. It showed me that I didn’t have to be a victim to my financial choices and that I could make changes.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth: I’m pregnant so I’ve got baby stuff on the brain. I like how this book presents childbirth as something that doesn’t necessarily have to be terrible. Another one I really like in the baby book category is Bringing Up Bebe.

Good things to watch.

Breaking Bad: Great characters, intriguing plot, some violence, blood and you just never know how crazy Walt is going to get. Completely awesome and addictive. Seriously, how crazy is Walt going to get?!

Dexter: Love it.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: This movie had me crying in the theater. It was hard to just pick 3 for this category so the other contenders for this category were the guilty-pleasure TV series Sister Wives, and True Blood.

Good things to use.

Sleep Cycle app: This is a fun app (just a heads up- it doesn’t work well if you have more than one person in your bed) that shows you, not surprisingly, your sleep cycles, length on sleep, and quality of sleep. It’s cool to wake up in the morning and see how the night before went.

Juicer: Nothing feels healthier (and more bad ass) than consuming 4 apples, a bundle of kale, a whole bunch of celery, some cumbers and a bit of ginger and lemon in one single drink.

Body:  Again, something that I’ve come to appreciate more since I’ve been pregnant. I appreciate simple things like sleeping on my belly, running, and bending so much more since I can’t do them as easily now. Also, getting into the gym and lifting weights feels great after not doing it for a little. Oh, and then there’s that whole growing another human thing that’s kind of amazing and makes me appreciate my body that much more;)

Connect with Anna on Twitter, @AndThenWeSaved.

Happiness Journeyman – Brave New Life

The Happiness Journeyman writes about his journey to financial independence – early retirement – at Brave New Life with a mantra to live simple and be fulfilled, these are his good things.

Good things to read.

Your Money Or Your Life. If it were up to me, this book would be a requirement in every public high school. This is no ordinary financial book about investing strategies or 401K’s. Nope – this book goes deeper by explaining what money really is, and helps the reader figure out how to consciously live, work, save, invest, and spend.

How many people can say they changed jobs, sold their car, and moved across the country based on a single book? Well, I can. After reading this book, everything changed. How I lived, worked, saved, invested… Even how I viewed life and family changed, and all for the better. If you’re working/spending/saving without understanding the concept of this book, you’re building a house on a foundation of sand.

Fight Club, by Chuck Pahlaniuk. If you liked the movie, you’ll love the book. Don’t be fooled into thinking this book is about fighting, it’s not. It’s an entertaining novel about our consumer culture, and the inner struggle we all have to escape it (whether we know it or not). Let’s face it, we all have a little Tyler Durden in us. Here’s a few great quotes to wet your whistle:

You buy furniture, you tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life. buy the sofa, then for a couple of years you’re satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you’ve got your sofa issue handled, then the right set of dishes, then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug. Then you’re trapped in your lovely nest, and the things that you used to own, now they own you.

Getting fired […] is the best thing that could happen to any of us. That way, we’d quit treading water and do something with our lives

I’m breaking my attachment to physical power and possessions, because only through destroying myself can I discover the greater power of my spirit.

The liberator who destroys my property, is fighting to save my spirit. The teacher who clears all possessions from my path will set me free

Classic Kid’s Books. A few years ago, when my son was 3, I was so fed up with all the crappy little Disney books that filled his bookshelf. These books are atrocious. I’m not taking anything away from some of the better Disney movies (Cars, Toy Story, etc) – but the book spin-offs for 3 year olds are unforgivably bad. Not only are they too short for a 3 year old, but they are mind boggling boring to read as an adult.

On the other hand, consider a timeless classic like The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. When I read this to my son, we usually would read one chapter each night. My son was fascinated with the book the entire time (which took a few weeks). Each night during dinner he would talk about the book, practically begging for bedtime so he could find out what was going to happen with Dorothy, scarecrow, and the flying monkeys!

Just a few other great children’s books include Call of the Wild, Curious George (the original), The Little Prince, and of course – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. How can you go wrong with a children’s book that includes a cat smoking hashish from a hookah?

And by the way, you can usually download these classics to your kindle or kindle app for free!

Good things to watch.

Nature. Let’s face it, between DVR, Youtube, and smart phones – we stare at screens way too much. Many studies have shown that the disconnection from nature that came with the industrial revolution is seriously harmful to our physical, mental and spiritual health. So I like to spend as much time as I can outside, observing everything not man-made. Even now, I’m writing this on an outdoor patio. So yeah, put down the smartphone and go for a walk.

Although I try not to watch very much TV, occasionally I do watch documentaries. One that I watched recently and really enjoyed was I Am, by Tom Shadyack. It’s a story of a rich and famous man who wrecked his mountain bike and spent nearly a year in chronic head pain. When the pain finally subsided, he went on a journey to understand what life was really about. He learned something interesting – check it out.

Kids At Play. First off, I’m not suggesting that you become some creepy old man hanging out at playgrounds and staring at kids. But when I’m around kids at play, including my own, I always find it uplifting. Seeing their pure innocence, joy, and energy reminds me how great life is when you live in the moment. Sometimes we just need to be reminded.

Good things to use.

Your bike. If you don’t have a bike, go get one. If you don’t use yours, go out to your garage and pump up those tires. I’ve been riding my bike as my primary source of transportation for 2 years now, and that time spent outside is my favorite part of the day. I feel bad for the people sitting in their stuffy little cars and trucks drinking their caffeine trying to wake up in the morning, as I zoom down the road with natural endorphins giving me the energy I need for the day. There are plenty of studies to show the health benefits of bicycling regularly, and I can personally attest to this.

Team Treehouse. Before signing up at Team Treehouse, I had never written or studied Objective C, the language used to program iPhone apps. But within 2 days of taking these online courses, I had already completed my first app. The subscription is $25 per month, but easily worth it if you want to learn one of the many skills they teach. Besides programming languages, they have topics ranging from website design to “how to start a business.” With the $25 subscription, you can take as many courses on as many topics as you choose. That’s a helluva lot better than the cost of college. I also appreciate that the videos are a good balance of form and function. There’s nothing dry – unlike most college professors. The first month is also free to try.

The library. It blows my mind that so many people pay money to own books, when there’s a library that will let you borrow the book for free. I mean, how many books are you really going to read more than once?

You can follow him on Twitter, @BraveNewLife.