The Sun Will Come Out Eventually


Faith, Optimism and The Continuum of Hope

I’ve spent a lot of time these past few days mulling over the differences between Faith and Optimism.  It seems to me that at this cultural moment people are clinging to worldviews that are crumbling from our grasp like handfuls of sand.  What once seemed solid in our hands is slipping through our fingers while the world quakes, we tremble and the concept of normal is best left to philosophers.

The concepts of faith and optimism tend to be used interchangeably but they have vastly different meanings.  It was while watching some video content from another coach this week that I was struck with this common misinterpretation of language.  While he paid lip service to the etymological differences and traditional definitions of the two words the bulk of his video teaching focused on faith almost exclusively and he missed a great opportunity to delve deeper into our collective psyche at this moment in time.

Looking at faith and optimism in context with today it helps to look back at previous world shaping events.  War analogies have been popular among politicians and writers of late, President Trump continues to say that we are in a war with an invisible enemy.  But the war imagery doesn’t sit well with me, it’s just too violent.  Doctors and research scientists are not soldiers, in a bloody war, they are dedicated healthcare providers working to prolong human life.

As a Canadian and an endurance athlete I prefer to think of it in terms of winter and marathons, two things that suck and can seemingly go on forever.  We all know that winter and marathons eventually end, we just don’t know how much pain we are going to have to endure before we get to the finish line.  Nor do we know how long that pain is going to linger afterwards.  The current COVID19 pandemic and the sociopolitical fallout that is sure to follow are a lot like running a marathon in a Canadian winter, just one storm after another with no end in sight and the distinct possibility of a stress fractured ankle ruining our summer.

So, what about Faith and Optimism?

Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl survived the holocaust then spent the rest of his career counselling and studying victims of long-term trauma.  What he found was that those who started out the most optimistic rarely survived.  The optimist might say “things will be better by summer”, but what happens when summer comes, and nothing has changed?    As the continual disappointment of missed deadlines and failures mount, the optimist suffers a broken heart and dies a little each day.  He tends to put too much stock in his own ability to influence the outcome and bend reality to his picture of how things should be.

The person of faith on the other hand recognizes that he is but one piece in a massive machine full of autonomous and often conflicting moving parts.  As such, he rarely makes predictions that depend solely on his or anyone else’s ability to complete a specific task.  The person of faith instead places his trust in the concept of better and celebrates incremental improvement along a never-ending continuum of progress.  While the optimist can only look forward to an arbitrary point in the future the person of faith can look both backward and forward noting how far he has already come and have hope for even better days ahead.

Which brings me to hope.

If you are looking for a word to pair with faith the concept of hope is much more congruent than optimism.   Hope, according to the author of Hebrews is the driving force behind faith.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. [Hebrews 11:1]

Without hope, faith is formless and provides no measure for progress.  Hope provides the continuum of growth with a touch point we can stop at and say, “look what we have accomplished” without placing too much emphasis on our own abilities or discounting the influence of outside forces.  Hope also does not rely on an arbitrary end point but rather leaves open the possibility of continued progress than we could ever have conceived from the start.

Little Orphan Annie said, “The sun will come out tomorrow” and whether it did, or it didn’t she had nothing further to add or look forward to.  The person of faith and hope says, “The sun will come out eventually” and when it does it’s just another event in the continual march of progress.

Surviving COVID19, like every other history shaping and personal growth defining event, is going to take faith and hope, it is not going to require optimism.  Optimism can set you up for failure, faith and hope are built to survive setbacks and endure long roads of recovery.

The road is long, there will be setbacks.  Keep the faith.  The sun will come out, eventually.

 

The Three Question Fact Find (Part Two)


Part 2 of 3 (For Families)

Continuing where we left off the other day.  The second question for the family market starts to focus in on your hopes and dreams for the future while still living your best life now.  Before we go any further though you might want to review where we came from and read the first post in this series.  Question One – Do you have any debt and watch the video on the same topic here.  Da L-Dawg Show – Episode 5 – Do you have any debt?

Now, let’s move on.

Question Two – Do you have a plan to sustainably protect and grow your assets?

I believe it was Charles Schwab who said that the only thing that matters to investors is yield.  While yield (or percentage growth) is important the key concept in my question for families isn’t how fast we grow your assets, it’s how we sustain that growth over the long haul through market cycles and the overall eb and flow of life.  Growing assets is easy, protecting them from market volatility and personal setbacks takes discipline, planning and a little grace.

Just about anyone can help you save for retirement.  Banks, Credit Unions and Investment Advisors can all provide you with investment vehicles designed to help you grow your assets but a financial plan is more that just an investment plan and making a mad rush to beat the RRSP income tax deadline every February isn’t sustainable.  A good financial plan answers two additional questions; “How much is enough?” and “What happens if I die too soon, live too long or my plans get interrupted?”

Answering the how much question is the easy part.  By looking at your current lifestyle, discussing your goals, and taking into consideration your life expectancy we can make a reasonable assessment of how much money you’re going to need, when, and for how long.  At that point it’s just a matter of reverse engineering where you are now, versus where you need to get to and determining how much money to set aside, for how long and at what yield.

Presto!  You now have an investment plan.  But that is still not a complete financial plan.

The tricky part comes in answering the second question.  If you die too soon your family could be put in a difficult situation, forced to make drastic changes just to survive.  The loss of your income due to death, disability or other economic pressures could present challenges keeping debts paid, funding children’s education or just keeping the lights turned on.  Not to mention the very real possibility of our medical system figuring out ways to keep you alive longer than your money can reasonably last.  This is were old school investment planning, the how much and now long discussion, meets insurance planning and becomes a full-fledged financial plan.  The effective use of life, disability and critical illness insurance, along with certain principle protected investment funds are an often-overlooked part of the planning process no matter your stage of life.

So, do you have a plan to sustainably protect and grow your assets?

Stay tuned for question three – Where do you want your money to go after you die?

For more information or help with your financial plan contact:  lauren.sheil@f55f.com or simply leave a comment below.

Becoming


I’m a member of the Be In Christ Church of Canada.

We used to be called the Brethren In Christ but a few years ago some people got concerned that the name was a bit sexists and dated.  What is a brethren anyway?  We don’t use words like that anymore and no one quite knew what to do with it.

I looked it up – Dictionary.com defines brethren this way:

 

archaic plural form of brother.

fellow Christians or members of a male religious order.

 

Yah – dated and sexist, not exactly how you would expect a modern church to want to present itself.

Unfortunately, no one could agree on a suitable new name at first so for a time we resorted to being known simply as the BIC.  That satisfied some people but not everyone and so we continued to work through different options, finally someone suggested that we could just let the B stand for the word Be and we could use it convey the message that we are BE-loved, BE-long, and BE-coming.  Check out the video on our name here – http://www.canadianbic.ca/

It’s that last word – Becoming – that has captured my imagination lately.

What, or more accurately who, am I becoming?

Have you ever just sat and watched a fish in a tank?  Your Goldfish, or whatever you choose to keep in your tank, can’t ever stay in one place for very long or he’ll die.

We all know that a fish breathes by extracting oxygen from water.  In order to do that water has to pass through his gills and in order for that to happen poor old Nemo must keep moving.

In a way, we’re all kind of like fish.

Think of time as our water.  As we move through time we breathe and grow.  We are constantly becoming the people we will be tomorrow, next month or next year.  But we can’t stop.  If we stop, we stagnate and a little piece of us dies.

Life is a process of becoming.  But becoming what, or who?

As Christians our goal should be to become more and more like Jesus.  Jesus taught us intimately how we should live.  He showed us with his life and taught us through direct instruction and storytelling.

The apostle Paul in his letter to the church at Philippi prayed that the process of becoming more like Jesus would one day be complete.

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. [Philippians 1:4-6]

But the process is never complete.  The gap between who you are and who you will one day be may be getting narrower, but it will never fully close.  Dissatisfaction with the person you are and the person you wish to be is what keeps us moving forward.

That’s the nature of becoming.

Who are you becoming?

Let’s chat about it in the comments below – I read and reply to every comment…

 

Book Review – Break Through:  From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility


In 2007, at the end of the second term of President George W. Bush, America and the world stood at a crossroads.  The sovereign debt crisis and subsequent economic collapse of 2008 and the election of Barak Obama had not yet happened, but the seeds of their impact had already been planted and the cracks in the status quo were already starting to show.  The Kyoto protocol, the U.N.’s sweeping resolution to combat global warming was all but dead, America was mired in a seemingly endless war in Iraq and Osama bin Laden was still on the loose believed to be hiding somewhere in the mountains of Pakistan.

It was against this backdrop that two social scientists the directors of the economic research firm American Environics, Ted Nordhaus & Michael Shellenberger published “Break Through:  From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility”.

The politics of limits took hold in the 1970s and has dominated political debate for over 40 years now.  As the unprecedented economic expansion that marked the post-war era began to wane and the national embarrassment of Vietnam, Watergate, and the middle eastern oil embargo began to sink in politicians stopped talking about expansion and possibilities and started to couch their rhetoric in terms of protectionism and limits. President Jimmy Carter referred to America in the late 1970s as a nation suffering through a collective “malaise”.  On the campaign trail in 1980, then candidate Ronald Reagan seized on Carter’s comments and called for “Morning in America”.  The slogan promoted a sense of hope and possibility underpinned with a conservative “America First”, isolationist, us versus them agenda.

Nearly 40 years later little has changed.  Indeed, in the intervening decade since the publication of “Break Through”, American politics has become even more polarized.  Eight years under President Barak Obama, while strongly progressive in its approach to social issues like LGTBQ rights and health care reform, left many Americans feeling disenfranchised as they perceived a loss of economic opportunity and a deminishing “Christian” identity as a nation.  Economic concerns mounted while globalization continued to send more and more jobs to places like China and Mexico.  And anxiety over immigration and an increasingly post-Christian social landscape continued to take hold.  The time was right for another “Morning in America”, this time in the form of a bright red baseball cap emblazoned with the slogan “Make America Great Again”.  What exactly that meant and what mythical time it sought to return was unclear and left to the imagination of perspective voters.

Nordhaus and Shellenberger where writing at a time before both Obama and Trump but in reading their work today their analysis of the state of American politics and economics seems eerily prophetic.  With the exception of a few bumps on the road, most notably at the end of the 1970s, and between 2008 and 2011, economic expansion since the end of World War Two has continued pretty much unabated.  But as the authors assert, to keep people voting for the same old solutions you need to convince them that things are getting worse, not better.  When you are the party out of power you need to promote insecurity not contentment to get people to think about change.  According to Nordhaus and Shellenberger:

The rise of insecure affluence has caused social values to evolve in two directions simultaneously.  Rising insecurity has fueled the move away from fulfillment values and back toward lower-order, postmaterialist “survival” values, which tend to manifest as status competition, thrill-seeking, and hedonism, all of which have triggered a cultural backlash that conservatives more than liberals, Republicans more than Democrats, have harnessed.  At the same time, rising affluence has fueled a shift, over the past century and a half, away from traditional forms of religious, familial, and political authority and toward greater individuality.

But rising insecurity in the face of affluence is the construct of spin masters, it has little basis in reality.  If you have more money you should also have more security, but the political strategists have mastered the manipulation of fear based on the threat of loss.  Limiting beliefs that your affluence could be taken from you are what have kept people in survival mode and stunted progress even as affluence has continued to increase.

The authors go on and later remind the reader that:

Just as prosperity tends to bring out the best of human nature, poverty and collapse tend to bring out the worst.  Not only are authoritarian values strongest in situations where our basic material and security needs aren’t being met, they also become stronger in societies experiencing economic downturns…  This shift away from fulfillment and toward survival values appears to be occurring in the United States…  Survival values, including fatalism, ecological fatalism, sexism, everyday rage, and the acceptance of violence, are on the rise in the United States.

It’s that line about “authoritarian values” that caught my eye first.  At some point during the 1992 election cycle, the one that saw Bill Clinton gain the presidency I recall seeing a republican commentator refer to the two parties as the “Mommy Party” and the “Daddy Party”.  His point was that Americans tend to vote republican when they feel threatened and need a strong father figure to tell them what to do, they vote democrat after daddy has save them and they feel secure enough to go out and do their own thing.   The underlying point of his argument was that even when America votes democrat, it’s because the republicans are better at giving people the security they ultimately want.

What Nordhaus and Shellenberger propose is a move away from limiting beliefs and toward a more open and progressive society like the one that predominated in the years immediately following the Second World War.  Forget for a minute about the overtly racists, sexists and religiously conservative society of the era and consider more the fact that this was the era that gave rise to the reconstruction of Europe, the construction of the Inter-State Highway System, the expansion of world wide economic markets in places like Japan and the far east, the civil rights movement, and ended by putting a man on the moon.  These were great, progressive achievements that came about through expansionist politics and a belief in possibilities beyond limits.

It beings with an expressing of gratitude for how far we’ve come and an acknowledgment of how much we have yet to do.  As Nordhaus and Shellenberger put it toward the conclusion of their book:

Those of us who are fortunate enough to have met our basic material and postmaterial needs should feel neither guilt nor shame at our wealth, freedom, and privilege, but rather gratitude.  Whereas guilt drives us to deny our wealth, gratitude inspires us to share it.  It is gratitude, not guilt, that will motivate Americans to embrace the aspirations of others to become as wealthy, free, and fortunate as we are.

The politics of possibility begins by embracing human ingenuity and rejecting limiting beliefs.  Progress will come when we all recognized that nostalgia cannot be allowed to limit our longing for greatness.  “Make America Great Again” assumes that our best days are behind us and seeks to return to a mythical time when things were better than the are today.  It seeks to limit immigration because things were better before “those” people lived here.  It seeks to limit personal human rights for minorities, women and homosexuals because things were better before I had to compete for my job or think about what those two guys are doing in the privacy of their own home.  It seeks to limit imports of goods from other countries, block the development of green technology and prevent competition of any kind.

You don’t win by enforcing unfair “rules”, you win by getting better at the game or embracing a completely different set of circumstances.  And you win by changing the game completely.

That’s progress and the politics of possibility.

 

Quote of the Day – 11/22/2016


The abundance of life depends on its ability to both share and conserve energy and matter, and to freely share information in order to grow the potential of the whole. Unrestrained growth based on competitive expropriation is the ideology of cancer cells and alien species. – @dkorten David C. Korten; The Great Turning, From Empire to Earth Community

Failure is a Failed Concept


Lately I’ve noticed some of my clients and even some colleagues around me using the phrase “I’m Failing” to describe their lives.  When I look at these people and what they define as failure it just makes me sad thinking about.

For the most part the people who describe themselves in this way are typical hard working, middle class citizens with a few challenges.  Sure they are experiencing stress.  Maybe they aren’t living up to their own expectations but if they were to take the time to you really stop and look at life I doubt they would classify themselves as failures.

Sure, you could always improve, I know I could, but does that make you a failure? I don’t think so.

You see, there is really no end destination in life, once we achieve a milestone there are always more accomplishments waiting just around the corner. There is no top of the mountain, there is always a still higher peak to reach just a little further down the path.

king of the mountain

When you think about your life in terms of pass/fail there is never any room for growth.

It’s time to stop thinking in this way. You’re not failing when you have stress. And you haven’t passed some great test when you achieved something. You’re just learning what does and doesn’t work.  And that’s what life is all about.

A so called successful life is about finding the pathway up the mountain. When you have a setback or experience stress you haven’t failed. You just learned what doesn’t work and you’re that much closure to figuring out what does.

So the next time you think you’ve failed try something new. That’s what all the successful people who came before you did and it’s the only way we learn what works.

 

Debt Fueled Growth = Economic Cancer


They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.”[2 Peter 2:19]

I knew this would happen. I knew that once I started putting it out there that I am counseling my clients to get and stay out of debt, all debt, forever, that there would be push back. There is just no possible way anyone can “get ahead” without access to credit, or so I am told.

I understand the sentiment.

We live in a society that is built on easy credit. From zero percent financing on that brand new car to the recent attempt by The Bank of Montreal to offer a 2.89% mortgage, the conventional wisdom is that there is no possible way that anyone can live without access to some kind of credit. Some industries, like car rental, hotels and the ever increasing on-line retail industry are so locked in to the credit mind-set that they have made it almost impossible to do business without using a credit card. Top that off with all of the leading economists telling us that if credit were tightened through the raising of interest rates or by imposing higher income requirements the entire economy would collapse and somehow trying to live without credit seems downright unpatriotic.

Sadly, to an extent, the economists are right. But that’s only because the government and business has built a system that can only be sustained through constantly increasing the amount of money that is pumped into it. In the medical world when something continues to grow unchecked, we call it cancer but in economics we call it progress.

What I advocate is what some have called a solid state economy. That is, a system that seeks to maintain balance, not growth. Balance between input and output, basic human needs and environmental sustainability.  It is only by living this way that the average consumer has any hope of getting, and staying, out of debt. 

People in a solid state economy would have the guts to stand up to the “manufactured need” of the advertising industry and say, enough is enough. Even though many free market capitalists will say that the only way to achieve a solid state economy is through draconian socialist intervention, a truly solid state economy follows the laws of the free market to the extreme. In a solid state economy when a company successfully fills a need they either slow production to a reasonable rate or wind up operations completely as opposed to the current practice of manufacturing further demand or creating “planned obsolescence” which force consumers to keep buying the same products over and over again. These practices are causing us to become buried under a mountain of discarded goods and services and killing the planet in the process.

If planet earth is a living, breathing system, then our economy is a cancer that must be stopped before it kills us all!

For more information on the Solid State Economy and advice on how to get, and stay, out of debt write to themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com