The Importance of Sleep

Writing this sentence is flat out exhausting. Why? Because I am so tired. Christina went back to work a month ago, and I took on the duty of watching my son during the night. I am not a night owl or a morning person. I am probably one of the most high-maintenance sleepers on the planet – 10:00 pm to 8:00 am is my sweet spot. Nine to ten hours a night is my goal, and with a child, that goal is laughable at best. I don’t have problems falling asleep or staying asleep during the night. My problems come during the day – I cannot sleep in, I cannot nap, and I cannot go to bed early. As soon as 8:00 am comes around, my eyes are wide open until 10:00 pm – no matter how much sleep I had the night before. For example, while in college, I tried to party like all my other classmates. I stayed up till 3:00 am, drinking, laughing, and having a good old time. Guess what? At 8:00 am I was awake while all my other friends slept till lunchtime.  The same problem occurred as a child during sleepovers. The chatter of young men would go late into the night, and everyone would finally fall asleep by early morning. Not me. I would stay up as long as possible – usually, I was the first to crash – and guess when my eyeballs would pop open? 8:00 am! Being the first to wake up at a sleepover is the worst experience in the world. After staring at the ceiling for 30 minutes, I would sneak away to the bathroom. After relieving myself, it was inevitable to run into my friend’s mom – an awkward conversation at the kitchen table ensued until one of my deadbeat friends’ woke up begging for pancakes. For these reasons, I did not have many sleepovers in my life nor parties at college.

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I thought as an adult I would never have to worry about my sleep schedule – no more peer pressure from drunk friends or adolescent sleepovers with too much sugar. But plans never work out, and I married a woman who has virtually no requirements for her sleep. Christina can function on five hours of sleep and amazes me with her energy. Her whole family is impervious to sleep – my in-laws regularly wash dishes at 2:00 in the morning. I bring all this up because I believe my son has inherited my wives sleep requirements. He is a baby, and I know babies have weird sleep patterns….but Teddy is one of a kind. Teddy sleeps sporadically during the night but rarely naps during the day – combining both his parents sleep patterns. The result is a nightmare for my sleep requirements and my ability to be productive during the day. For the past two weeks, I have simply sat on the couch and watched reruns of SportsCenter. My brain was in a fog, and my reading felt like the mental equivalent of treading through quicksand. Suffice it to say, my Aristotle book is on hold until I can get better sleep. Things are improving though, and within the past couple days, I have had enough energy to move from the couch to write this blog. Teddy is starting to nap more and sleep for more extended periods – he is now four months old, so I think the future looks bright. My point for this blog is to remind everyone that sleep is the most essential thing in our lives. If we don’t have sleep, we can’t be our best selves – physically mentally, and spiritually. When we sacrifice sleep, we sacrifice our ability to philosophize, to be optimistic, to eat healthily, and to connect with God. If you have a baby, I feel your pain. If you don’t have a small child then I implore you to shut the electronics and get some shut-eye – nothing else matters. If you feel like a zombie, you will function like a zombie.

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My Health Problems – Bugs and God

Many of my close friends know this, but I have been struggling with tingling in my hands, face, and legs for the past three years. The tingling feels like bugs are crawling inside my skin – it is constant and never completely goes away. I am not in pain and do not feel any weakness or numbness – just a continuous tingling sensation day in and day out. What caused this to happen? I have two theories. First, three years ago, I went to a Piston’s game with a friend, and I drank too many Budweiser Selects. I was drunk the entire match and upon going home, I looked down at my feet and saw they were beet red. Along with the redness, I felt a mild tingling sensation – I was also up the entire night because of nausea. An important note is that I was never a big drinker in my 20’s and alcohol always impacted me more than my industrious friends. The day after the episode, I felt somewhat normal and the tingling had ceased. Midweek came and all of a sudden I woke up with tingling in my feet and a new phenomenon of tingling in my hands.

The first theory is that my three-year-long tingling is from a bad reaction to alcohol that somehow damaged my nervous system. I have not had a drop of alcohol since that Piston’s game and I now notice that my tingling gets worse when I am anxious or stressed. Here is the second theory: The month before the Piston’s game, I began an aggressive treatment to fix sciatic pain in my back through stretching and chiropractic manipulation. My back pain originated from a fall five and half years ago when I walked down an icy step of stairs and fell right on my lower spine – I laid on the cold ground for 10 minutes in excruciating pain. My 24-year-old self was not smart enough to seek treatment and instead, I went to the gym that day and squatted 250 pounds. For a year after the injury, I had to sit lopsided because there was too much pain on my right side to put any pressure. At this point, you can call me all the foul names you want – I agree with them wholeheartedly.

So back to the month of the Piston’s game when I was trying to aggressively treat my back injury. The chiropractor decided to treat my back with traction – a table that essentially pulls your back to extend it and relieve pressure. I felt no tingling while on the table but there was slight discomfort. Once my tingling began after the Piston’s game, many of my friends and family claimed it was caused by the traction. Today, when I do planks or specific exercises, my tingling gets worse. In respects to my facial tingling, that came about a year later when my wife had a miscarriage – my Mom gets facial tingling and I suspect that my facial tingling is unrelated to the tingling in my hands and legs. In the first year of tingling, I went to three doctors, had two MRIs, had 6 months of physical therapy, and still received no relief or answers.  So what is wrong with me?

To better answer that question, I recently went to another family doctor and a Neurologist. The family doctor didn’t think the tingling was from my back and prescribed me Cymbalta for anxiety – the Cymbalta made the tingling worse and destroyed my sex life. The Neurologist sent me to get an MRI of the brain to check for MS. The results showed that I have three lesions on my cerebellum, but I do not have MS. The Neurologist said the lesions didn’t look serious, but they could be benign brain tumors – in the end, they wouldn’t explain the tingling, and I have to go back in six months for another MRI. I’m not worried about the lesions because I have no symptoms that match a malfunction of the cerebellum. So I am back to square one.

At this point, I believe my leg tingling is from my back problems, my hand tingling is from back problems/anxiety/blood sugar changes, and my facial tingling is from pure anxiety.  I am not an overly anxious person, but I believe my anxiety manifests itself through tingling – other people may have headaches or stomach problems. Overall, my tingling has gotten significantly better since three years ago but my back pain is stubbornly persistent. I am still on a journey of discovery but I wanted to tell you all these things for one reason. God has helped me through all these trials and I am here today because of my faith. When it feels like bugs are crawling under your skin 24 hours a day, your mindset can go to dark places. I had the resolve to fight on because I knew people were praying for me and that in the end, everything would work out. I am a Christian for the very fact that I have seen God transform me over the past three years – wisdom truly comes through adversity. If you are feeling down, you are not alone. Google, social media, and even modern medicine will never be able to give you the strength to completely move forward. We are designed for a deep connection with our Creator – don’t push aside life’s greatest resource. I’ll keep you updated on about my lesions and tingling but, please keep me in your prayers.

If you have a struggle and need a sincere prayer, please email me at jonathan.oldham1@gmail.com.

A Hard Look in the Mirror

Everything is going great in the Oldham household. Christina and I are getting into a better sleep cycle after a lot of trial and error – we discovered that Teddy only enjoys resting on top of luxurious pillows. It feels weird being a dad but I am slowly figuring out my role; every morning I rock Teddy and listen to audiobooks – probably the best way to put a person to sleep. I thought that my reading goals would be threatened with a new baby, but I am getting back to my normal pace. My most recent book was What I Learned Losing a Million Dollars by Jim Paul and Brendan Moynihan. This is a different book for me, but it was recommended by one of my favorite philosophers as one of the few non-charlatanic finance books. Essentially, those who are wealthy become wealthy through some combination of luck and skill. Some work harder than others while some get luckier than others. In all scenarios, there is a degree of egotism that impacts risk-taking. For example, take a trader who is having the year of his life. His trades never go wrong and he begins to feel more confident with his “patented strategies.” These strategies lead him to the deal of the century and he puts all his resources into one basket. Unsurprisingly, when the deal goes south, the trader convinces himself that he is right and everyone else is wrong – the final result is ruin and humility.

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I want to extrapolate this scenario to all walks of life. Have you ever continued in a bad situation because of blind rationalization? Have you ever disregarded sound advice? Have you ever been too stubborn to admit defeat? I can say yes to all three. We are very good at subjectivism. Subjectivism is a flawed philosophy that argues that the “good life” is whatever an individual perceives as “good.” Put in another way, if I believe the best life is one of hoarding cat poop, then that is the best life, and no one can tell me otherwise. Subjectivism makes it very difficult for us to see that we are in a bad situation and we need to redirect. How can we fight this mental entrapment? I believe the quickest way to redirection is through prayer and advice. Seek out wisdom and you will find wisdom – if the advice is hard to hear then you are in the right spot; true loved ones will not enable you and they will help you see alternative perspectives. Don’t surround yourself by “Yes Men” – agreeance is only reasonable to a certain extent. The most successful people in the world are successful because of their luck, their hard work, and their ability to take criticism. There are much worse things to lose than a million dollars – a subjective life can lead to abusive relationships, anxiety, and a sense of isolation. Pray to God for truth, call that friend up who tells it how it is, and give yourself a long look in the mirror.

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Treasure Island

“A friend is a gift you give yourself.”
-Roberst Louis Stevenson

Growing up in the 90’s was the best time for Disney musicals. There was Aladin, Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Hercules, Mulan, Pocohantes, and Muppet Treasure Island. Muppet Treasure Island was one of my favorites because I loved all things, pirates. A particular memory stands out to me that exemplifies my fascination for the Jolly Roger. One summer, probably in the mid-90’s, my Mom forced me to go to day camp. This day camp had everything a fat boy dreaded: high humidity, tag, shirtless swimming, mediocre cold lunches, and overly energetic counselors.

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In an attempt to forgo the see-through white t-shirt, I decided to opt out of swimming. Instead of having fun with the hyperactive kids, I sat under a shade tree and read an enthralling book on pirates; it explained pirate culture, swashbuckling battles, and treasure hunts. I think this event in my life stands out to me because it was the first time I realized that I was an old man in a young body. Today, my Mom and I laugh about those times, and I can finally breathe a sigh of relief that I no longer have to carry around a tube of Preparation-H in the case of post-tag chafing. With this background and love of pirates in mind, I was excited to crack open my next classic, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.

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Treasure Island was published in 1883 and is actually a children’s story written by Stevenson for his stepson. This novel is responsible for most of modern culture’s pirate imagery: Billy Bones, a parrot on the shoulder, a peg leg, Long John Silver, X on a treasure map, pieces of eight, “Yo ho, yo ho, and a bottle of rum!” The main character is Jim Hawkins, a boy who stumbles upon a treasure map and then goes on an adventure to retrieve it – one in which goes completely awry after Long John Silver and his pirate crew attempt to take the treasure for themselves. It is a coming of age story for Hawkins and the reader witnesses his transition from a cowardly boy to a courageous man.

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Throughout the book, there are various father figures for Jim and Stevenson highlights how difficult it is to decipher a person’s real character. For example, Jim loves hanging out with Long John Silver because he is fun and personable; on the other hand, Jim feels disconnected from the stern captain of the ship and feels uncomfortable in his presence. Unfortunately, Long John Silver ends up being the anti-hero who leads Jim astray while the Captain remains a bedrock of sense who eventually leads Jim safely home. Stevenson highlights the difficulty that children face when trying to decide good vs. bad, friend vs. foe, and caretaker vs. conman. The people we spend time with significantly impact our character and our life choices. Think of all the bad habits in your life; how many of those habits are the result of your friends’ and past social activities? Be weary of the Long John Silver in your own life and realize that there may be treasures waiting just outside your echo chamber.

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Escaped Chihuahua!

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Of all the dogs that run away each year, the Chihuahua is the least likely. A Chihuahua by nature is a helpless creature that parasitically thrives off the heat and comfort of its owner. No Chihuahua ever enthusiastically runs to the door to go wee wee. Most Chihuahuas feign the outdoors unless it mirrors their natural desert habitat. Max, my Chihuahua of 8 months now, is almost always by my side. He lies on my lap and I pet him like Doctor Evil. If I have a book in my lap, he lays on my legs. If I have something on my legs he lays on my feet. The dog is always seeking human touch. In general, he has more ADHD than a birthday party at Chuck E Cheese. At any given moment he is alert to his surrounding environment-especially whenever the refrigerator door opens. I believe Max to be some kind of mix between a Chihuahua, a dingo, and Will Ferrell in Elf. I keep learning new things from Max that make me a better person. I would recommend to everyone that they own an animal. Animals teach responsibility, respect, compassion, unselfishness, and patience. So what has Max taught me on this glorious Sunday? Well, that Chihuahuas can run away.

As stated previously, Max is always by my side. So how the frick did a seven-pound-deer-headed-pea brained Chihuahua escape from the house? It all started with my desire to talk on the phone with my old roommate-while on the porch of my house. It being almost 70 degrees outside I wanted to bask in the glorious sun which has been absent for the past 4 months. I took my chair, my phone, and my Chihuahua outside. While talking with my roommate, Max sat peacefully on my lap while taking in the rare solar heat. All was well with the world until Max started to get comfortable. See, Chihuahuas are very timid up until a certain point. They have an action potential of meekness which is negated whenever they sit in one place for a period of time. By sitting on my lap on the porch, Max became the king of the porch-anyone who came close was in his territory. While chatting with Chris, his action potential was bathed in some sort of Chihuahua gusto, and Max began to bark at every single thing that came past his wooden domain. Adults. Dogs. Children. Grandmas. Leafs. Paper Bags. Nothing was safe from his wrath and I subsequently threw him inside because of the interruptions to my conversation. As earlier stated, Max must have human contact at all time. After constant whining, Christina opened the door and let him come to me; he quickly regained his state of superiority which subsequently forced me to throw him back inside. It was at this point that I must have not shut the door completely.

In about a half hour, Christina was heard through the window frantically calling for Max. I thought nothing of it because I figured he may be snuggled under a synthetic human substitute-his blanket. But there was no miniature deer to be found under the many blankets which are exclusively for his comfort. This sent a wave of panic through my spine and I thought he may actually have run away. The house was checked and now my wife was going all Filipino on me. I asked myself why would Max leave the porch? He has never left my side. Nevertheless he was gone and we were contemplating the worse – that a hawk swooped down and grabbed his rat-like body. Thinking that he couldn’t have gone very far, I scanned the neighborhood from my porch. I didn’t see anything at first but then my eyes caught a small figure in the far distance. It was Max, in the road, starring at a stop sign as if he could read it-with a car rapidly descending in the foreground. I called his name and as if nothing happened he ran back to me with haste. I embraced him with the utmost ferment as if this little dog was my own child. So why did Max leave the porch? I will never know the answer but it has taught me a lot about my relationship with this dog.

I actually care about him and would be extremely sad if he died. I actually appreciate that his brain and balls may be bigger than I had previously thought. I actually need to respect that he is a strong dog and not a mutated rat. The moral of the story is this: When life gives you a metaphorical Chihuahua, a situation that you don’t respect or appreciate, think twice before making judgments and discounting it. That Chihuahua may highlight your vulnerabilities, making you more emotionally sensitive and more appreciative of what you have. I know my Chihuahua did.

Waiting to Die

My whole life feels like one big waiting game. I could not wait to get done with High School. I could not wait to get married. I could not wait to buy a house. I could not wait to eat my dessert. I am always waiting for something in life and it is not good. We all tend to do this to some degree because we are uniquely gifted with the understanding of the “future” tense. No other animal is consciously waiting for some future event – they are always responding to stimulus in a programmed manner. The ultimate example of the waiting game is that guaranteed end point – death. I am scared that I will eventually run out of exciting things to wait for and ultimately begin to wait for my last breath. It sounds macabre but isn’t that what a lot of elderly people are doing at this very moment. There are nursing homes around the world full of people that have one last future plan. I don’t want to rush through life anymore and try to speed up what is already a fast-tracked existence.

On any given day, I am waiting for a myriad of future events. In the middle of the night I wake up waiting for my alarm. In the morning I wait for lunch time. In the afternoon I wait for the end of the work day to get done. In the evening I wait to eat dinner. While lying in bed I wait for my favorite TV show. While I close my eyes to sleep I wait for my dreams. When I’m waiting for the aforementioned events, I am waiting for even more things in the distant future: blog posts to write, books to read, plans to be made, sex to be had, money to be saved, and chores to be completed. During my waking hours, I probably spend 75% of the time thinking about things in the future or things that are unrelated to the present. Even when I am doing something fun, I catch myself waiting for it to be over so I can move onto the next activity.

When I was in college, I was in a huge rush to get done and start my life. I could not wait to never have to write a stupid paper or turn in an assignment again (ironic now that I blog). I did everything I could to graduate early and now I look back with deep regrets. I missed out on seeing my friends whom I rarely ever see now. There was nothing for me at the end of the process – all I had was that habit of waiting for the next step. Are we all destined to wait out our lives until we’re dead in the ground? I am realistic and know waiting will always play a role in my life. How could I ever plan for the future without daydreams? How could I ever better myself without future goals? I will never stop looking forward but I need to find a way to balance my gaze more towards the present. What is the best way to be mindful? The number one way to get out of the waiting game is to notice the details. Your brain is almost always on autopilot and can function pretty well with minimal concentration. Whenever you take your brain out of its autopilot you begin to concentrate and focus on the here and now. My top two ways of doing this is by focusing on my breath and focusing on specific details. For example, my mind was wandering while writing this blog so I focused on my breath for a couple of inhales. Almost immediately, I began concentrating on the task at hand and was completely present. If you find yourself in the waiting game focus on something extremely particular. I love looking at the sunrise or the stars when I let Max out to take a crap. Focus on one thing and just analyze it for a couple of seconds. You will be present and your thoughts will stay in that state for quite some time thereafter.

I know this is all stuff that people have heard before but I personally always need reminding. Practice being present and stop waiting for the next step. Life is a river that you float down; every bend is unique, some bends are bad, some bends are good, but you can only stay at each for a certain time – once you pass one it is gone forever.

Thank You for a Wonderful 2016

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These past two weeks have been quite exceptional in the categories of socializing and eating. My wife and I were able to spend time with family and friends while eating sugar on a hourly basis. We both are feeling the post-holiday blues; organizing our myriad of presents and trying to keep our minds off the snugness of our clothing. I have never been a big fan of New Years and last night I fell asleep at 10:30 pm without a tinge of guilt. As I get older I do take the “New Year’s Resolution” more seriously. What better time to set a goal and try to better yourself? My resolution is to eat Paleo for a solid month along with walking on my treadmill everyday during that period. Additionally, I am working on my Seasons With project – an attempt to read 12 books on the French Revolution by the last day of Winter. My suggestion for goals is to make them short, precise, and measurable.

One thing I resoundingly appreciate on this New Year’s Day are all my loyal readers. You keep me writing and give me an audience for my eclectic books and quirky thoughts. This is SAPERE AUDE’s third year and it is still going strong with visitors on a daily basis. I could increase my readership by posting the latest news, celebrity gossip, fashion, and pictures of me in a banana hammock. However, I blog not for the number of readers, but for the quality of the content to both educate and increase wisdom. Below, I listed my stats for the year as a thanks to you and motivation for myself to continue this journey.

2016 Stats

Total Views – 4,079
Total Visitors – 1,799
Likes – 202
Comments – 153
Number of unique countries – 79
Top 3 most popular posts – Abraham Lincoln vs. Donald Trump, The Helpfulness of Habits, A Valentine’s Day to Remember

Thank you again for reading and we hope you enjoy all the upcoming 2017 posts.

-Jon, Christina, and Max

Want to win a 25 dollar Amazon Gift Card?

I am starting a virtual book club and for your reading pleasure I created a page called “Book Club” that goes into all the details. The quick summary of the club is that we will read one book a month that is nonfiction. Each week there will be a question (or two) and if you respond each week to the discussion you will be put into a drawing to win a 25 dollar Amazon gift card. Yeah I know it’s kinda like bribing you to be my friend but in a real book club I would have to spend at least that much on wine and soup mix. Below is the poll to vote for August’s book of the month.

 

A Bra a Day Keeps the Minimalist Away

My wife and I have a lot of crap! I see myself as a semi-minimalist but I still feel overwhelmed by all of our stuff. The amount of underwear between the both of us makes it look like were stockpiling for a zombie apocalypse. Go up to our attic and there is junk that is just stupid to have: assignments from old classes, a cheap plastic tape dispenser that is broken, a Hanson CD, and five ear buds that don’t fit my infant sized ear holes. Why the heck do we keep this stuff? Well I think it is because we think one day we will use it. And there lies the reason why most people struggle with an excess of everything! This point and many other minimalist thoughts were mulled over in my most recent reading Do LessA minimalist guide to a simplified, organized, and happy life by Rachel Jonat. When we buy something we keep it because it cost us money and we believe that we will use it in the future. Unfortunately, we end up pushing said object into an unorganized space to be later forgotten and never used at all. For example, I got a hair up my but to make homemade ice cream. Well I made homemade ice cream one time and then the ice cream maker got shoved in my garage, where my Dad used it to store his golf balls. Another example, I bought some super tight jeans that made me look like a hipster even though my legs are naturally the size of a sequoia. Well I gained 5 pounds and those pants go up to my mid calves now. Did I donate the pants? No… they are still in my closet reminding me of my odd pear-shaped figure.

Living a minimalist lifestyle means getting rid of the stuff you don’t use and only keeping things that you actually need on a regular basis. By reducing the need for “things” in your life you gain more time to do the “things” that matter to you most. If you have a smaller house, a smaller car, less clothes, less electronics, less fancy food, and less internal desires…you need less money. If you need less money then you don’t have to work as much. If you don’t have to work as much then you gain more time. If you gain more time then you can focus on what truly interests you. I love this quote by Socrates, “The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.” In addition to obvious material excess, we need to simplify our social circles. Be willing to let go of friendships that are not a positive force in your life. Stop spreading yourself thin between a ton of superficial relationships and focus on a few deep relationships. Along these lines, find the hobbies that you truly love to do and not hobbies that you think you should do because you see others doing them (think Pinterest). So my challenge to you is to go through your stuff and donate the things that you don’t use regularly. Down size. Spend less. Have more free time. As a motivator, write in the comments your top three hobbies that you would love to spend more time on.

By simplifying my life and spending less money I will have more time to…

  1. Read (History, Philosophy, Psychology)
  2. Write (For my blog and my book ideas)
  3. Exercise (Walk outside and Weight lift)

Let’s end this post with a great quote.

“Fear less, hope more; eat less, chew more; whine less, breathe more; talk less, say more; love more, and all good things will be yours.”

-Swedish proverb

You’re Going to Die in 1 Year

Unfortunately, this title was a reality for Morrie Swartz in the book Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. Morrie was a sociology professor who received the life changing diagnosis of ALS which slowly takes away the ability of the muscles to function and has no cure. Morrie, being the introspective person he was, did not become morose over his predicament but rather analyzed death and was extremely optimistic throughout his dwindling state. He tried to answer the hard questions of life and was a metaphorical bridge between the living and the dead.

One of the most profound points Morrie made was that you must first embrace death before you can really start living. This seems like a contradictory statement but it is a paradox with profound implications. Most people, including me, think death is a far off event that should receive little thought. We are all born and we will all die. We celebrate the birth part and avoid the death part. This creates a problem because death frames our life journey; accepting that at any point you may die frames how you live each and every day. If I die tonight will I be happy with my life up until this point? I asked this question to myself and I didn’t have a very satisfying answer. I currently am in a state of constant work which takes away my ability to maintain relationships, read, meditate, love, learn, and create. I still want to see the world, kiss my future children, and learn new skills. Why do I put off these life activities in the current-even though death may come at any time? Well the reason is that I have not accepted death yet and therefore I cannot truly start living. At current, I have accepted the desire of accumulating money to provide myself security which will keep me far away from death. Unfortunately, no matter how much financial security I have there is no escaping the unknown time of death. I am using money as a pseudo-god that graces me with a mentality that “tomorrow is a guarantee.”

Of course we need a certain amount of money to pay the bills but I bet if people accepted that death would come at any time they would change their spending habits. That big house may be a small house, that boat may not be so important, that new car may be unnecessary, that 5-star hotel just wouldn’t make much sense. What would become important would be a meal with your Dad, a camping trip to see the majestic Smokey Mountains, and maybe a homemade dinner with your beautiful spouse. My goal is to rid myself of the false security of money and find the bare-minimum amount that I need to truly live my life. I challenge you to think about this balance so that your full-time job becomes a part-time job or maybe you can even quit your job. Ask yourself, did you wake up this Monday excited to live your last day or did you wake up just to grudgingly trudge off to work as if you are going to live forever?