Archive for July, 2012


Poverty is Relative

Is poverty truly relative?

Depending on who you talk to, the answer to that question is as definitive and divisive as the line drawn by the Pope during the Treaty of Tordesillas in the “Age of Discovery”.  With the world’s economy still stuck in a tenuous downsizing, it would appear more critical to answer this question, or to determine  its relevance.

Living where I’m at in NJ, and working in the non-profit field gives me the opportunity to see the constant reminders of what “relative poverty” means. “Rich” and “poor” neighborhoods stand side by side each other, only divisible by a bridge or crossing a street. Even within both types of neighborhoods “rich” and “poor” aren’t created equally. For some of the more affluent among us, bigger and excess is better.  For those less fortunate, the pangs of what is lacking has more immediate and gripping consequences.

Many economists tend to define relative poverty in terms of “lacking in comparison to others in the same society, or even a similar comparable socioeconomic bracket”. If one looks at things from merely a capitalist/resource driven point of view, such a take is spot on. The question remains though: on a system that thrives on the opposing duality of rich and poor, how can you really make poor people richer and rich people stay rich?

The truth is, you can’t. Once exposed to excess and super profit, most people will seek to hold onto that experience for as long as possible. The only way forward is reframing how we view “wealth” and “riches”.

This is why the following quote was so striking when I saw it on a Occupy Wall Street sign on Sunday. We often look at those who we may be poorer than in terms of material wealth, but in fact are richer than in other areas.

“Some people are so poor all they have is money.”

To me, the point of such a quote is to remind us that we all are working from some deficit, but we also have some strengths to work with. I have been fortunate enough to k ow folks who may never experience the MTV Cribs or Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous level of opulence. But spiritually and life outlook wise, they are wealthy beyond the billions of Bill Gates, Oprah and Mike Bloomberg combined.

Money does have value. But as we seek to acquire it, we most remember that it is merely a tool, one that should be judged to care of what our needs are and to uplift those less fortunate.

Because trust me, poverty is no joke…whether it is a lack of health, insight, resources or wealth.


Being Mindful of Gossip

“Every man is surrounded by a neighborhood of voluntary spies.” –  Jane Austen 1775-1817


Capital Debt and Career Gains

The beginning of summer is always the most exciting time of the year for students, especially graduates of high school and college. The relief of completing school, the promise of the future…there is always a lot to look forward to, in the summer and beyond. Bust as many of our students graduate, there are two certainties here in the US that face them:  a tougher job market, and higher starting educational debt – especially for our college students.

The one thing that they don’t teach you in school is how to leverage your assets, including your time and managing your accrued debt.

It is no secret that the traditional US approach to any bearish swing in the economy is to ride it out by going back to school. The underlying dirty secret the employers don’t mention how important experience is. It is on applicants to be able to speak the verbiage to make them attractive candidates if the lack the required experience.

All the while we push our kids to go to college because having a degree still means something. But, the kids are finding out that the business of education is more of a business than it is about getting truly educated.

Adults will tell you that you’ve got to spend money to make money. That’s why most folks will do some research upon deciding how best to return to school to ride a bear economy out. But the only part of that phrase some of our youth understand is you’ve got to spend money.

Debt management for young people going to college is more of a lesson of surviving a minefield than it is managing assets correctly. While we want our youth to have the freedom to figure out what they want to do, its more pressing that they try to have as small a debt profile as they can while doing so.

I have conversations on this with the teens on the 9-5 as best as possible. Like the elders before me, sometimes the information I pass along is based on experience, but much of it is fact. With things the way they are it really is about leveraging all the assets once has at their disposal, including debt.

As much as the pundits want to convince us otherwise, there’s still a long road of recovery ahead.  So what are some things the next round of graduates can do to stay ahead of the curve?

  • Utilize internships while in school: make sure you find something that can add to your resume in a positive way. If you do a random internship, highlight the skills you learned as opposed to the actual internship itself.
  • Manage your schedule appropriately. While in school is a good time to get experience. While there is a stigma about doing unpaid internships, sometimes if you have a mix of paid and unpaid stuff on your resume, you can be ok – as long as your skill set being portrayed is relevant. Many employers don’t care how you get the experience, as long as the experience you have matches what they’re looking for.
  •  If you take on debt, make it be useful one. Read the fine print for your loans. Make sure it is something that you can manage to pay off once you start to work. Sometimes adding more debt to take a class when you’re in the work world can help you move forward. Just be sure to crunch the numbers realistically when you make those choices to ensure there’s enough cash to cover your expenses.

Here in the US it is based on get now, pay later. Just like any other business, you may nor see initial returns when you invest, but if you invest in yourself the right way, when you pay off those debts the future can truly be yours.


The Past: Such A Tease

“The past is the only dead thing that smells sweet.” – Edward Thomas 1878-1917


Looking for love: Insecurity Bites!

When I saw the article above I had to just out laughing. I didn’t find the situation itself funny but the irony was too juicy not to tickle my funny bone.

People often create their own demons in a relationship called insecurities. Based on how our culture is – negative sells in the media, thus what we mostly see as relationships are the crisis or cheating moments – some level of insecurity is expected to be a part of any relationship these days.

Insecurities are as numerous as there are draconian laws and legal loopholes here in the US. The sexier ones, at least in the eyes of TV writers, are the stereotypes involving the “good woman” trying to convert that “wayward wild man” in her life. So what’s the cause of her insecurity there: is it really his behavior or her belief that she cannot change him with her love?

It is true that you can never fully know your partner, especially if you don’t know yourself all that well. Still, you can have a good idea of what you’re getting into if you pay attention and get to know the person. Sometimes our insecurities manifest themselves in ways so blatant that they do more damage to us than we can realize.

For example, take a woman who isn’t comfortable in her own body. Sometimes what may happen is that as she becomes dissatisfied with her own attempts to control how her body feels, she takes it out on others in order to see more instant results. Now, is that something she chooses to do all the time intentionally? No, but it can reek of the idea that those who feel powerless go picking on someone weaker to feel better about themselves.

How about the guy who feels that he is a high roller and has to live above his means? Flashing money and possessions that he knows his income cannot sustain long-term, just to look like “the man who is large and in charge”? Just like many other things, that sort of approach is unsustainable. So when he finds someone who loves him first and then his “means” second, he may not be able to handle it.

Now in the article above, we may never fully know the personality of the guy. Could he have been a cheating dog worthy of a PI probe? Probably. But he could also be the object of a jealous girl’s affection.

In this game of love you cannot fully account for all scenarios. But what can account for are our own insecurities. If you address them and the person still leaves, then maybe they were not for you. But if you don’t take the time to address them, then you’re doing two people no favors: your partner and yourself.


Vice: A Naked Truth

“No one ever suddenly became depraved.”Juvenal 60-130 AD


New Beginnings, Familiar Surroundings

For the record, it’s been a while since I posted regularly here, and with good reason. There have been some changes at work recently and now that the dust is starting to settle, it’s time to take stock and share some recent observations.

One bit of work related advice an old mentor gave me a long time ago was that as you go through your career, setting and adjusting your goals are essential. Now, that might not be an earth shattering piece of news, but if one takes that stuff seriously, it helps you to keep your current job and complacency in proper perspective.

My mentor when I started asking questions about this piece of advice broke it down for me one step further:

  • Write out your goals once you get a job, or ideally before you start your job search.
  • Decide on the skills you want to build on, and the ones you want to acquire.
  • Also, decide on how much of those goals you need to accomplish before you take the list down and reassess where things stand for you.
  • Figure out how often you want to look at the list as a check in
  • Once you’ve hit the number of goals you wanted to achieve, stop and reassess things. Depending on what you find, you either consolidate and settle at this job, or start to look to move on – albeit in a smarter, graceful manner.

Ever had that one friend, or family member or coworker who kept talking about how much they wanted to leave their job and NEVER did?

The idea behind the approach described by my mentor is that it helps you to better manage things such as goals, dreams, being comfortable in a work environment and complacency. Life will often come into play, and that’s unavoidable. But if you have your goals laid out and written down, it can help in the decision-making process.

For me, I was able to revisit my list recently and realized that I got to a point where I was hitting most of the stuff on my list and it was necessary to make some changes. Do I have this down to a science? No. But sometimes you have to find the best way to be honest to yourself and stay on top of your goals.

After all, if you’ve got one life to love, why not get the most of it by being the best at what you believe you can be?


One of Love’s Most Guarded Secrets…

“You know very well that love is, above all, the gift of oneself.”Jean Anouilh 1910-87