How to be a better man: A huge red flag

So another post in my “better man” series. These posts are designed to help heterosexual men. They may or may not be applicable to all genders and all sexualities I simply don’t know as I am writing from my personal perspective. So there are lots of red flags in relationships and many of miss them completely. Often for men it’s the chase and the conquest, warning signs be dammed. It’s one of the worse parts of being a heterosexual make, the lack of discipline can change your life.

So you started dating someone, you like her a lot, she likes you a lot. Many of the “boxes” are checked for you and you are considering a more meaningful commitment. You begin to discuss it and hint at it, or maybe she has then you hear something like this:

“I’ve had bad experiences with men in the past”

This is the red flag. Now this may not come out verbatim but something along the lines of “I was damaged or hurt in a prior relationship”. RUN FOR YOUR LIFE! Why? It’s a prelude to one of the biggest failings in early relationships. One (or both partners) are using their past relationship to gauge you. Of course we all do this to a degree but when someone actually verbalizes it, that means it is paramount for them.

Ancient Wisdom - Confucius
Wisdom comes from experience

Maybe they made mistakes, maybe their prior partner made huge mistakes. None of that is your fault. It’s the other persons issue, and for you to be held accountable for it normally means you will be paying from the mistakes of her mistakes of the past. Thus your future is reliant on how you measure up against SOMEONE ELSES mistakes. Now men do this too, this isn’t strictly a female trait but I’m willing to bet you hear them verbalize more often.

This is a red flag and if you really like the woman you have to get ahead of this quickly by informing her that you are unwilling to be measured against someone else’s mistakes. Ask her to articulate SPECIFICALLY what those issues were and try and address it as best you can. Again this is if you are really hooked but 9 times out of 10 your best long term move is to end this relationship quickly for both of your sakes.

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stressed-out-woman

Quick Finance Piece: Is this a recession?

Yes, it is.

So before I go too far let me do the normal disclaimer. I am a finance professional and any advice you see on my blog is my own opinion only and is not meant as investment advice. So that out of the way, yes we are in a recession. “But the media says we aren’t in a REAL recession”. I don’t trust the media, if you do I can’t really help you….

An economic recession has been defined for decades as two quarters of economic decline as measured by GDP. Now that’s not the technical definition but that is what has been used as the gauge for many years. The United States is in a recession. Now there are DEGREE’S of recession and that is where the nuance comes in.

This is not a hard recession by any means. We have great job numbers (which is an interesting situation in of itself), but we have horrible inflation, a slowing housing market etc. You see what you aren’t hearing much about is the horrific impact that Covid shut downs had on industries and supply and demand economics. You shut down global production for 6 months, you just don’t flip a switch and it comes back to normal.

The ride shouldn’t be to bumpy this time around

Throw in a war, a decrease in domestic Oil refining, divisive politics, on and on. The situation is dynamic and fluid there is no one catch all correction to fix this. You had decades of artificially low interest rates now creeping up again. A hard recession would see the market decreasing, layoff’s and a higher unemployment rate.

Companies are reporting good earnings that means DEMAND is still there and that bodes well for a quick recovery. They call that a V shaped recovery. I suspect we will see another decline in the 3rd qtr. and possibly into the 4th but the basis for good economic outcomes are there. First, the job market is healthy, you can work and make money. Second, demand for goods and services is still robust, so companies are still making profit (which fuels point 1).

I think 2023 will be a better year economically, unless again something extraordinary happens (a pandemic, another war. Be prudent here and tighten things up as best you can and save a bit more than usual but I don’t suspect things to get horrible soon, but things will still remain in the current state for the near term.

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Surviving 2020 & covid

Anxiety or a Panic Attack ?

If you have anxiety you might be exposed to, or have had a panic attack. This is the physical manifestation of your anxiety. Often it doesn’t play out as the person think’s it will, meaning the “panic” doesn’t nearly equate to the situation more often than not. However, that doesn’t minimize or negate what is actually happening to you. Panic often delves into physical conditions that impact you negatively. Examples:

  • Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
  • Heart palpitations or racing heart
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Choking feeling
  • Feeling unreal or detached from your surroundings
  • Sweating
  • Nausea or upset stomach
  • Feeling dizzy, light-headed, or faint
  • Numbness or tingling sensations
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • Fear of dying, losing control, or going crazy

The real problem is these attacks can happen at any time. Literally ANYTHING can be a trigger and this is, for a lot of people where anxiety ends up. They live in fear not of, I don’t know, let’s say spiders, but the PANIC that seeing the spider will invoke. I’ve never had a serious panic attack, I have heard in my life when the subject comes up in my social circle there is an immediate dismissal. “It’s not that bad” or “They made a mountain out of a mole hill”.

Sometimes the smallest thing can become a huge explosion.

What that narrative does is it creates the conditions by which someone who might have panic attacks has even more anxiety about it. Our culture celebrates strength and fortitude in essentially all ethnic backgrounds for each gender. Having anxiety that leads to a panic attack doesn’t make you weak, it’s not something you should be ashamed of and if you have people in your life telling you it’s not a big deal you should consider strongly limiting your time with them.

In extreme cases a panic attack can lead to death, either by suicide, heart attack or loss of control of your faculties. BREATHE!

I am not patronizing you, it sometimes is that simple. Even if you are in the middle of a grocery store and you think people are staring at you and you are in full panic, take slow deep breaths. 10 slow deep breaths is a minute of your life, you can do this and any social anxiety you may derive from that 1 minute where you think people are staring at you will dissipate quickly as your panic starts to decrease with every breath.

You aren’t alone, you are not abnormal. You have anxiety and you need to be honest with yourself about it. When in doubt, take a deep breath.

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FREYFEST & LAMMAS

So it’s been a while but one of the areas I declared I would spend more time covering on the blog is paganism. Now this isn’t a religious blog, it’s really just things that cross the mind of this a gen xer (hence the title of the blog). I am a pagan but like most practioners of faith I am not devout. I do not celebrate every tradition and ceremony; I am not rigid in the observations of holidays either.

I am however in tune to Norse paganism and specifically how much of it correlates to nature, and specifically the celebrations place in the life cycle of a year. Freyfest & Lammas is really a combination of a few pagan traditions. For the Norse this was the mid-point celebration between summer and fall. Many of the rituals you see in paganism is the celebration of earth providing life to all via seasonal changes that promote the harvest. The harsher climates, like northern Europe especially had emphasis on these rituals.

Now technically this and many other Norse pagan festivals are blot’s. A blot is a sacrifice and sacrifices run the gambit from human to life stock, to food. Ancient customs were brutal to modern sensibilities but we always have to keep in mind that the inception of these ceremonies were by people who were doing what they could to survive and life was so harsh that giving over to faith was about the only mechanism they had to inspire hope.

The All Father sees all

July 31st – August 1st marks the halfway point between the Summer Solstice and Autumn Equinox.  In many cultures, it is the time of year that signifies the first harvest, mostly of grains.  Bread is traditionally baked in various shapes to celebrate the holiday.  The word Lammas derives from the Old English phrase hlaf-maesse, which translates to loaf mass. In early Christian times, the first harvested grains and baked loaves of the season were blessed by the Church.

Lammas, Lughnasadh, Freyfest (Freysblot) are just a few of the names given to this time of year.  The first harvest represents the first moment during which we can finally begin gathering the fruits of our labor from our hard work during the preceding months.  We are more aware of the bright reds and yellows of the autumn season that are just around the corner.

Source:

This is a time to celebrate and for joy. Be happy with what you have, enjoy the bounty of nature. Freyfest is the marking of the first harvest of the year. For you and I? We can drive to the grocery store. Maybe you have a small garden at home, maybe some peas or a tomato is ready? Harvest it and maybe hold it up to the sky and thank Frey for the bounty and then enjoy.

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Yet Another finance secret finance professional won’t tell you (but I will)

So another finance piece, as I write this the U.S. is in an official recession. This piece isn’t about recessions, inflation or politics so you can exhale. We are going to reveal another secret though that finance professionals don’t like to admit. So a quick disclaimer, I am a finance professional. I have been working in the finance and accounting field for over 30 years. This blog is not a finance advice blog; this is my own opinion based on my experiences. Any advice you receive regarding finance should be researched thoroughly by you as an investor and verified through multiple sources.

Now that out of the way here is the opening salvo “When things are good, everyone is a genius.” The last decade up until the pandemic really the stock market overall was pretty good. You had good annualized returns and many people made a lot of money. So being a finance professional and advising people to go into the market wasn’t a genius play. Of course if you aren’t fluent in finance you might have perceived it as such. Interest rates were low for a long time so there really wasn’t anywhere else to go with investing except real estate.

But the secret? Everyone is a genius when things are good, what about when things are bad? What about when you are in a bear market (when indices drop 20% in a calendar year)? The secret is, the real finance geniuses were diversified PRIOR to the bear market. Any finance professional could have told you to put your money in an index fund prior to covid and you would have made fantastic gains. The real economic geniuses advised you to diversify with money spread to commodities, bonds/treasuries, real-estate and precious metals (this is a commodity, but not a traditional commodity).

As an example, what if in 2016 your finance professional advised you to have 15% of your portfolio in “Gas & Oil”? That would look pretty good now wouldn’t it? Same with bonds, treasuries, wheat, gold… you get the picture. The secret here Is diversity of investment result in a wider spread of assets which can absorb declines in any particular sector.

Like it or not, the world still runs on Oil based products.

Now that does mean you would have had less in technologies for the same period and not enjoyed that growth. I concede that, but the savvy investor doesn’t play the short term they play the long term and sustained diversified portfolios over the long haul 10-30 years normally perform as well as a strict stock portfolio. Don’t get me wrong here, I personally believe the majority assets you are investing in should be either growth stock mutual funds or blue chip mutual funds.

100% of a portfolio though?  No, you diversify specifically for bear markets and sharp down turns because they always happen. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when and how long will it last. For calendar year 22 as of 6.30.22 the markets are down 20.3% now this has come up in July, there is no denying that but you’re still down overall. On top of that we have large inflation numbers devaluing the purchase power of your dollar. So what 1.00 would buy last year now buys .92 that’s an 8% decrease (rough estimate). That isn’t equated well in your portfolios return.

Meaning you made 10% on the stock sale but the money you received purchases 8% less than it did meaning the value of that 10% return to you in real time is a net positive of 2%. Again, the secret here is diversity. Always have part of your portfolio assigned to cash, bonds/treasuries, commodities and that will provide you a decent buffer for the next bear market because this will happen again.

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Anxiety: The benefits of having Anxiety

In my travels I have come across all sorts of articles on anxiety. To be blunt most of them are “change how you think” rehashes. I found an article here that is a little odd, as it talks about the “unexpected benefits” of stress and anxiety. Of course I had to read it and its honesty not a bad read.

From the Article: “You have probably noticed that when you’re anxious about something, you can’t sit still. That reflects that short-term stress and anxiety are energizing emotions. They are your body’s way of preparing you for action.

Although most work problems don’t require physical strength, they do require mental energy in order to put in the hours required to address the issue. The motivational lift that a little anxiety can provide can be harnessed as you get to work. Your energy may also engage your teammates to help dig in.”

Now that is actually a valid point. Anxiety can often make you focus on the issue you are anxious about. This can lead to positive outcomes and a resolution to that issue. This article is short but it is absolutely worth a read because it does something that very few articles about anxiety do.

Anxiety can make your whole life a mess.

It tries to focus on potential positive outcomes of HAVNG anxiety. It’s not telling you to think differently, its telling you that while anxiety can be crippling and horrible for your health there are from time to time positive outcomes.

I’ve read many, many articles about anxiety and this is one of the few that I read a few times because I was astounded at its tone. This article is really applicable to people like myself (and maybe you) who are not on the extreme of the spectrum. It’s meant for those of us who function at a high level with anxiety and it gives specific examples of positives outcomes from anxiety.

It’s worth a read but remember, anxiety can be volatile. This isn’t a catch all solution to anxiety you should take it for what it is. A good illustration of how positive outcomes, occasionally can be had when you have anxiety.

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Wisdom from the past: “Be like water”

“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” Bruce Lee

The above is a famous quote from an interview from the 60’s. He was asked to encapsulate his philosophy etc. and of course that’s nearly impossible for anyone to do in a 40s sound bite. Its important to understand the context here as well, Bruce Lee was a martial artist (perhaps the most famous one) and an actor.

What can we glean from this bit of wisdom from the past?

Water has the ability to adapt to nearly any situation. As Lee says, “put it in a cup, it becomes the cup”. For those of us with anxiety this might not make a whole lot of sense. It requires a mind set and personal mental flexibility to allow yourself to “fit” into any situation. For us, again, those with anxiety I think the key take away here is we are both the water and the cup.

Many of us are struggling to be comfortable in our own skin, in multiple situations. Its far more important to be comfortable with yourself then with everything else around you, that comes later. You are the water and the cup, you have anxiety, you have to acknowledge and accept it. You have to forgive yourself for feeling the way you do, you have to accept yourself as you are and understand you are not deficient.

Once you accept yourself, you will more easily be able to employ this wisdom from the past and be like water. You will be able to navigate social situation, you will be able to function out there in the world with other people with all the mental exercises that go with it.

You are doing great, one day at a time.

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Anxiety: Self Care?

So as my journey with anxiety continues I often stumble across articles that leave me somewhat baffled. You see Anxiety is now big business. Cynical? Yes, but with good reason. It’s not just the drugs or treatment facilities all of which have value it’s the media surrounding anxiety. Anxiety is often used as a cudgel to support other narratives. “Gas prices rise again, fueling anxiety fears” (that’s an actual headline from a main stream media outlet).

Sure I write about anxiety to, so I do understand that I am engaging in a bit of hypocrisy here but there are degrees. People like me who are not engaging in anxiety as a commercial enterprise (I make no money from this blog) are doing so because they are affected by the issue. Many in the media engage in the anxiety space to drive view, create more anxiety and ultimately obtain more clicks.

“That’s very cynical Karac, can you back that up?”

Maybe. I found an article here that discusses 4 types of “self-care” you can engage in when you are “feeling anxious”. To summarize they are:

  1. Say to yourself “There is no emergency right now”
  2. “Perspective talking”, as explained “What would someone who is just as smart or conscientious as you, but who thinks differently than you, think about the topic of your anxiety?”
  3. “Engage with one of your core values, unrelated to the topic of your anxiety”
  4. “Take a break from trying to avoid or escape feeling anxious”

Now the article elaborates on each point but the short version is, think differently. I mean, really? This is clearly someone who doesn’t understand what anxiety is. The entire fight for those of us who have it is preventative. We want to stop anxiety attacks and giving us more reactive advice that basically boils down to “think about something else” is ridiculous. Like we hadn’t tried that before…

Oscar Wilde
Any more spectacular advice?

I realize I am entering into the ranting phase here but if you have had an anxiety attack at any point in your life, even mild anxiety attacks you know that you Can’t simply change what you are thinking about. I mean you could in theory… Next time you are anxious about getting on an elevator because you have a phobia, try head butting a wall 5 times, you’ll forget about the elevator soon enough.

These articles aren’t helpful anymore no matter how well intentioned. What do I do PRIOR to an anxiety attack so I don’t ever have to be there? Give me tools to combat anxiety before and after an attack occurs. I get it, I need to think of something else when I am in the throes of an anxiety attack. I’ve seen the article a THOUSAND TIMES. What can you do to combat anxiety BEFORE an attack?

Here are 3 things, I covered these before on this blog:

  1. Get more sleep
  2. Create structure “At 11:30 AM I will begin to prepare my lunch”
  3. See a Dr, get medicine and stick to it if prescribed
  4. Exercise more

These are things that PREVENT anxiety attacks. Look it, many of us in this space are writing pieces that are redundant, we’ve said a lot of these things before I get it. If you can “change what you’re thinking about” then you’ve already defeated anxiety, essentially. These articles aren’t without value, there are often some pearls of wisdom within but the overall message of “change how you think” is bordering on absurd at this point.

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Dressing to feel good !

How to be a better man – Relationships and a harsh reality

Another post in my better man series. These posts are meant to help heterosexual men of all ages and are not meant to offend to speak to other genders and sexual orientations. This is one older guy sharing his wisdom with men of a similar mind. I am not a MGTOW blog, I do not have a bias towards one group or another, I post what I know and what I have seen based on my experience.

Disclaimer out of the way, there are some harsh realities heterosexual men have to deal with. In the current social construct in the western world, we are near, if not at the bottom. Your place among the bottom varies depending on your racial composition but for the most part it seems society thinks the least of you, and expects the most from you. This wasn’t always the case mind you, go take a look at say 1950’s America you were the top of the food chain.

So with this comes certain realities and one thing stands out as having the potential to be catastrophic to your life and that is relationships. It’s not just romantic relationships with women, it’s ANY RELATIONSHIP. One word from anyone can result in horrible outcomes. From someone at work calling your toxic, a cousin saying your racist or a neighbor who doesn’t agree with how you raise a child. As a heterosexual male the outcomes usually lead to more negative results then other group.

Am I contagious?
The longer you deny social realities, the longer you will remain confused and isolated.

You’ve heard the saying before “you can’t trust anyone” well guess what? That’s never been more true than it is now. What’s harder to replace? A career you worked at for 10 years or a casual friend you joke around with once a week getting coffee in the café? One wrong comment to that person can result in careers being over. Think I am exaggerating? Google is your friend. That neighbor who waves every morning? Want to bet they have social media? (twitter, FB, Tick Tock). What if they say something about you letting your dog run lose? (even if you don’t).

The harsh reality is as a heterosexual man in 2022 every relationship you have has to be looked at critically. You’re an easy target, low hanging fruit. I will give you a personal example. My daughter has a large group of friends, we had a party a few months ago. Hamburgers, hot dogs all the normal “cook out” fare you would expect. One of her friends was unhappy with the protein we provided at the party. There were plenty of vegan and vegetarian dishes there but that wasn’t enough. To the point where this “friend” posted pics of this “disgusting American tradition” on her social media.

There was little to no impact to me or my family, this wasn’t a disaster. But it could have been. Now granted that had little to nothing to do with me being a white heterosexual male but the point is one small thing can lead to larger and larger outcomes. What if some nut on the internet saw this and decided to visit us to explain how horrible we were for cooking hamburgers at a cook out? Think that’s a stretch? It isn’t things like that happen often actually, its just different degrees. The point here is even your most harmless actions can be open season on you. Be very careful who is in your life, even on the periphery.

The more people in your life, the more exposure you have. I’m not saying shut down but just be more cautious. Relationships, even ones abstract through others in your life (your girlfriends, brother’s, wife as an example) can lead to issues. Really listen to people in your life, understand who they are as best you can and the minute something begins to go toxic, cut them out and move on. The risk is no longer worth the reward. Harsh? Yes, but if you aren’t looking out for your interests, who is?

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Historic Inflation – The most important # you need to know is 3.22%

So another finance piece today. I am not going to go through my normal disclaimer hopefully by now you understand you should be diligent about your finances and obtain information from multiple sources. I’m thankful you consider me one, today we are going to talk about inflation. Yes, its real, and it isn’t exclusive to one region we have global inflation. The numbers I will use in this post will be U.S. numbers but in my research it tracks, mostly, globally.

You are probably wondering what the 3.22% is, that is the historic average inflation rate over the last 108 years. That’s ON AVERAGE, which is important. We have years in there where we have 13.5% inflation (1980) so it’s really important to have good perspective here. Historic inflation isn’t as important as “life time” inflation. That metric is the inflation rate in YOUR life time. For me? Its 3.95%. None of the numbers I am throwing at you include 2022 which right now is approx. 8.5% (give or take). As it isn’t a full year of data we can’t use it for these purposes.

Here is a link to the historic chart I am using. So a few important things to remember.

  1. The distinction between historic and life time inflation rates.
  2. The likelihood of sustained inflation.
  3. Globalization

I distinguished the 1st item already, but items 2-3 are intertwined. We had a sustained period of high inflation in the U.S. from 1973 – 1983 (roughly) that’s a long time. That was in my life time, it might be yours too. What normally happens, and is happening now is wages increase as inflation increases but rarely at the same rate. As an example, it’s likely that in 2022 we will come in between 6-10% inflation for the year, it’s unlikely that your income increased by that same amount. The thing that is a killer about sustained inflation is multiple years where your income doesn’t match or exceed inflation = less wealth overall.

Inflation decreases your purchasing power.

You may make more but it doesn’t buy as much, basically. Globalization is a fairly new phenomenon in the inflation equation. In the 70-80’s it was far less then it is now. So what happens in one major country affects the global consumption and production metrics. If China can’t produce as much of X as it normally does, the price of X goes up, or inflates. Add in a pandemic here and there and well you get the picture.

There is only one sure fire way to combat inflation for you personally and that is increase your income by more than the current inflation rate. The problem is most can’t do that. So the second best way to combat inflation is to ensure your income and investments are increasing more than the average inflation rate in your life time. So for me, that means I need to increase my income and investments every year by 3.95%. Now that is just to remain as is, if I want to improve my financial situation (my ability to consume more) I need to increase my return by MORE THAN 3.95%.

Take a look at the link above and see what your life time inflation rate is. This is the minimum target you should be striving for in all of your investments and your income. Trying to figure it out monthly or on an annual is probably not going to work, but hey if you can make 8.5% in these markets I tip my hat to you. For now, shoot for 4% minimum, 6-8% would be ideal and reasonably attainable if you have investments.

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