Thursday, November 20, 2008

Grim Christmas?

Jay Leno, channeling Rodney Dangerfield, said "times are so bad, Santa is down to one HO". Is it shaping up to be a grim Christmas season or is it a time to be thankful?

If Christmas means buying or receiving gobs of new gadgets and designer clothes, jewelry, etc., then you are certainly in the wrong year.

The Happiness Equation is "what you have" divided by "what you want". Most of us have little control over things like credit default swaps and toxic mortgage assets. But they impact our job security, the equity in our homes, and our investments. And the impact sucks for most of us.

When the numerator of the Happiness Equation is sinking like a rock, you need to reduce the denominator to stay happy. Cutting back on spending is the first reaction, although cutting back on spending is a large part of the problem - there is over-reaction in the market and it leads to a vicious downward spiral.

You can also reassess "what you have" - like your health, your family, your friends - in other words, your blessings. Christmas is a season to rejoice in those things, not just the material. Except for the very unfortunate, groceries are relatively inexpensive, and Christmas is a time for cooking those special recipes.

Christmas is also coincident with the winter solstice. Pagans (North of the Equator) celebrated the shortest day of the year because the next day could only be longer. Whether you rejoice or not this Christmas has little to do with whether the end of the world is at hand. And one of these days, the next day can only be better.

PS If you need to put a face on the grinch, Dick Fuld has my vote.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Black and White

November 10, 2008. A Black President-elect Barack Obama visits the White House. This is historic for all Americans in different ways.
I attended a "Black and White" high school - Odessa Permian - the school of Friday Night Lights (of Book, movie and TV-show fame. The book was accurate enough to piss off a few of the locals in Odessa. The movie has been the called the greatest sports movie ever made. The TV show looks (to me) like "The OC" comes to West Texas.
But, the only "Black and White" at PHS were the school colors, not the student body. Odessa, Texas through the 1960s was as segregated as a black line on a white piece of paper. People of "color" lived South of the RR tracks. The "white" high schools were North of the RR tracks.
In 1954 school desegregation became the law of the land after the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education. But little changed until 1969, when a federal judge ordered a North Carolina school district to use busing to speed integration. This led to a reaction to preserve Federal funding in school districts across the country. In Odessa the reaction was to put one black teen on a bus every day to Permian High School. The John Birch ideology in Odessa, TX didn't like it, but the students at PHS didn't seem to mind. By 1980 the (unwritten) RR track law was history. People of color moved North. Their kids went to all of the Odessa schools. Some of the them were star players, as the movie based on a real 1988 PHS team, depicted.
By the way, when the book was released in 1990, Odessa was in a steep economic depression. All of the $30/barrel oil wells were dry. And the Permian Panthers descended from a thirty year winning tradition to a streak of losing seasons. In 2007 oil prices surpassed the cost of advanced drilling techniques, and the Permian Basin boom was back. There is no recession in Odessa, Texas today: zero unemployment and zero homes for sale. People buying RVs just for temporary housing. And the Permian Panthers. are playoff bound for the second year in a row. President-elect Obama is actually Black and White and perhaps the smartest leader the country has elected in 50 years.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Leave a Ripple

A legacy is a gift to the future often formed in words and pictures. A legacy is not an obituary (a contrite factual tribute usually written by a stranger for a newspaper). If there is a story in an obituary, it ends badly. So, rather than dwell on that story, create your own ripple for future generations with a legacy story.
Perhaps you are concerned or doubtful that anyone would be interested in your life or your stories. A good way to frame your mind, is to imagine that a favorite friend, child or perhaps an unborn grandchild will be the recipient of your story. It’s a good bet that their life will be touched by your gift.
A good story has a few key elements: character (or characters), intent (goals, desires, expectations), a catharsis (a significant event or conflict that changes the characters and the reader) and details (or the denouement to use a fancy word). There are many categories that could apply:

* Your first day at school – did a parent or grandparent take you?
* Your best friend growing up. Your best friend today.
* Your first date, your first love, your first child ..
* A significant academic, athletic or professional event ..
* A loss – your first funeral service, something more recent..

In fact there are probably too many categories. Let your mind linger on a few and a good story is certain to emerge. Your goal is not to document everything that ever happened to you – that could take a lifetime to write and another lifetime to read. No, the goal is to convey something special about your life in a story. And at the end of this effort, you may discover the true reward of creating a legacy story - a better understanding of your own life.

Online Legacy is developing technology to assist you in this process. You could can read books on the subject, then force yourself to put aside the distractions of the day, someday. Or you can spend a few minutes at Online Legacy to start a process to create and preserve your ripple across time. Follow the link to learn about Online Legacy.