Where you are now, doesn’t have to be where you end up.

This is more of a pep talk post. The title is of course meme worthy but its very very true. Let me give you some perspective. 30 years ago, I was unemployed, out of work, living on a friend’s couch, smoking drinking, partying with absolutely no direction at all. My family was broken, my siblings spread out all over the country, my father deceased, my mother a raging alcoholic. I had no hope, I had no support, I was hanging on by a thread.

Things got progressively worse for me, the 1980’s turned to the 1990’s and it looked like I was going to be homeless and broke. I caught a break, I hooked up with a girl friend who had her shit together. She got me a job at the company she was working at. The boss there told me, and I will never forget this. “You have an opportunity here to change your life, if you mess it up, its all your fault”. It wasn’t prophetic, it wasn’t an epic line from Shakespeare etc. It was though a chance, and I took it.

It took me years but I grew a thick skin.

I stayed with the GF for a year, I banked as much money as I could. We didn’t last, she changed jobs and changed boyfriends. I held the job though, I had enough resources to afford a very cheap apt, food, I was living. I was able to reduce my drug intake and booze. I went to night school (the company helped me pay for it). I took a second job, selling men’s dress shoes. I hustled my ass off and did everything I could to generate income and better my position.

By the time I got out of that company I had an associate degree, I cleaned up A LOT, and I was dating my future wife. Fast forward to now, 30 years removed I have two college degrees, a very nice house, financial independence, a great family and a decent career. I have issues still, I struggle with anxiety, I have moments where I am not a fun person to be with.

I never thought I would arrive at this place in my life, I am happy, most of the time.

Where are you now? What do you see 5 years from now in your life? Is it bad? Is it really bad? It’s likely much worse than my situation. I caught a break, but I didn’t know it was coming. I got one shot and I made it work. Life isn’t fair, most of the time it sucks but along the way you’ll likely meet people that can help you, you just have to have your eyes open enough to see that the help is there to take. It’s okay to take help, its okay to need assistance.

You must hang in there, imagine for a moment 30 years from now. What will you be? Where will you be? If I can make it, you can make it.

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Gandalf

The Wisdom of J.R.R. Tolkien

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.

“So, do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” 

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Time is the most precious commodity on the planet. It does not care about your race, gender, political affiliation, religion, sexual orientation. It moves forward regardless of your personal situation, it is all encompassing. You and I are simply passengers on the journey of time, like a train rolling down the track. No one knows when they will get to their stop.

Do you wait in anticipation for the stop to come or do you take advantage of the journey on the way to the stop?

Gandalf was right, we must decide what to do with the time given us.  

I have made horrible decisions regarding time, I have wasted a lot of it. I have also had moments of absolute joy and reveled in the moment. Despite everything that is thrown at us, every minute, of every hour, of every day, of every week, of every month, of every year, our greatest challenge is to enact Gandalf’s wisdom.

J.R.R. Tolkien was a brilliant writer. In his works you can find so many gems, it boggles the mind. I decided to spend some of my time sharing this with you, have you decided what it is you are going to do with the time given to you?

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One critical mental exercise for those with Anxiety

No articles today, no witty quotes, I’m just going to share with you a little life experience here. Many of us have full lives. Spouses, In-laws, Children, Friends, Co-Workers, Pets on and on. Some of us have too full of a life, meaning we have so many ways to expend energy and time we often come up short. What does that mean exactly? In short it means we are expanding our mental energy and time on so many different things we are contributing and in some cases making worse our mental health.

“So what is the exercise Karac?”

I do this from time to time, but the exercise is tonight when you are in bed staring at the ceiling before bed, list in your mind the 10 most important people in your life. I mean the people who are really important. These are the people you truly love. Your kids, your spouse, your dad… Make a mental list. Did you even get to 10? I don’t mean people you play cards with on Saturday nights. I mean the real substantive people in your life. This can include pets, it’s imperative that you get clear in your head who is on that list.

Some lists help a lot, some not so much

So the exercise has two parts, it’s the next day do you remember the list? You can write it down if you need to, but the last part of the exercise is you honestly assign to each how much time you spend with each person per week.

I know this sounds silly, but trust me on this. So you got the list of people (10 or under) you have assigned an estimated amount of time you spend with each per week. How many hours (again rough estimate) was it? It’s critical you were honest with your estimate here but you round up to the nearest hour and divide by 168 (the total hours in a week) and you get a %. Was it higher than 50%? Less than 25%?

Remember in that 168 total hours, you sleep, you eat, you go to the bathroom, you go to work, and you drive to the market… It’s critical you were honest with your time allotment estimate to the people on your list. If you were you now know, on average what % of your week to you spend with the people whom are most important to you.

This % changes during holidays etc., but on a normal week that is where you are at. The result of this exercise is the show you how much time you spend with the people who are most important to you. You should be working actively to increase this. If you have anxiety, it’s likely the people on that list (and pets) are super important to you, you may not even have 10 (I have 8 on mine). Whatever your list revealed, it’s your normal. If you continue to do the same things over and over and expect a different result, that’s insanity.

Interested in more posts about the value of time? Check out my post here.

What is Black Friday?

So what is black Friday? Yes, it’s the day after Thanksgiving and there are a lot of great sales but where does it come from? It actually stems from the stock market crash of 1869 (not 1929). There was a horrific crash of the gold market that ruined many people, not just the rich either. The 1929 stock market crash actually happened on a Tuesday, but at the time there were numerous comparisons to the black Friday stock crash of 1869. Over time people assume (incorrectly) that the 1929 stock market crash that kicked off the great depression happened on a Friday.

How did it become associated with retail? In the 1950’s the Philadelphia police labeled the Friday after thanksgiving as black Friday as thousands of people would stream into the city. Not to shop but to get ready for the Army Navy game happening on Saturday. There was crime, shopping, all sorts of shenanigans. From there retailers began to market sales to capitalize on the influx of people and call it black Friday sales.

This began to take hold, but many in other cities called it “Big Friday” and a snowball effect occurred. Simply put, one store had a sale so other stores to compete had sales and months turned to years, to decades of this tradition. So much so that many retailers were able to parlay black Friday sales into huge profits putting their business on an annual income of “being in the black”. This is when we really see X-mas marketing go through the roof as more and more retailers started banking on a robust black Friday sale kick off to fuel the ytd corporate earnings.

Next up Christmas….

Here we are in 2021 and this hasn’t changed much, you see all the holiday music, the nonstop adverts etc. We now have a new concept “Cyber Monday” which is beginning to eat away at the traditional black Friday sale concept. You can now shop year round and have things delivered on credit anywhere in the world. Remember in 1957 things were different. Most people didn’t have credit cards, you bought things you could pay cash for. Travel in the U.S. was blossoming with the highway system but it was new. International travel was still fairly limited, compared today and ordering a good or service abroad meant a catalog order you did through mail which would take months to receive.

Black Friday as we know it today is consumerism at its pinnacle. We have been marketed to believe that it is this consumers holiday. When in reality it is the cumulating of a series of events that happened that some clever marketing firm in the 1950’s capitalized on. Have fun out there and remember gift wrapping is only an additional 20.00……

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Glogg

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the U.S. one of our biggest holidays. We gather with our families and celebrate what we are thankful for. This is the busiest travel season for the U.S. We fly more, drive more, busses, trains tens of millions of us are on the move. I am traveling this year. I am not at my home which is good and bad. Its fun to visit others and travel you get to see new things. The down side is you are not at home and you don’t get your comforts.

There will not be a formal post today, other then for me to say thank you. Thank you for your continued support of my blog. There will be some changes coming to the blog in 2023, nothing major. I will outline these changes soon in a blog post. For now I am going to enjoy my family and enjoy this holiday. If you are in the U.S. and celebrating, safe travels. For all of my international readers, there will be a more formal post on Friday as per normal.

Again, thank you so much for your continued support, It really does mean a lot to me.

Take care, Karac.

Basics of Anxiety – General Anxiety Disorder

Let me start this post off with a link to a great resource the Anxiety and Depression Association of America . This site has excellent information for anyone who thinks they have an anxiety disorder or knows they do and you just need more information. This website has a lot of information and resources and can assist with a multitude of issues. I strongly recommend taking a look at the site and the reference material it offers.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is essentially a catch all for nonspecific anxiety triggers most of us call them phobias. “GAD is diagnosed when a person finds it difficult to control worry on more days than not for at least six months and has three or more symptoms” . When I read this I realized that at several points in my life this applied to me. GAD isn’t a constant condition it can come and go but I’ve found in my travels that more often than not it is always present just to varying degrees.

From the Website: “GAD affects 6.8 million adults, or 3.1% of the U.S. population, in any given year. Women are twice as likely to be affected. The disorder comes on gradually and can begin across the life cycle, though the risk is highest between childhood and middle age. Although the exact cause of GAD is unknown, there is evidence that biological factors, family background, and life experiences, particularly stressful ones, play a role.”

Surviving 2020 & covid
Anxiety Sucks, Millions suffer from it.

I thought this excerpt from the site was particularly potent. 6.8 million adults… Ya we aren’t alone. I found it very interesting that they claim women are twice as likely to be affected. I can logically extrapolate some instances why, pregnancy, physical appearance and family pressures come to mind. The worse part though is the multitude of factors and the lack of specificity as to why this occurs.

Essentially anything can trigger this, maybe you went to a concert Saturday and your ears were ringing when you got up the next day “am I going to go deaf?” you ask yourself. A common seemingly sterile situation right? So the next time you don’t hear something correctly are you now delving back into anxiety? Technically yes, again its degree’s but you are anxious about a future outcome based on an example of the past. You can’t absolutely say that your past experience will be identical to your future outcome but it’s your best gauge.

Then you begin to think “god if I just didn’t go to that concert I wouldn’t have this issue” and on and on it goes. That’s just one very simple example but it’s a prelude to Generalized Anxiety Disorder. There is no definitive moment as to when it begins for anyone, but when you are “in the moments” of anxiety you know it. The sensations are unique to everyone but if you’ve had panic attacks you know the gambit it can run. You can be highly functional and then for days struggle to get out of bed because you can’t overcome the anxiety.

Then, one day you feel good. Not perfect, not “wow that was silly I am free and clear” but the fog clears for you and you go on without worrying about it at all. This is GAD and it can flip day to day, week to week for your entire life. Knowledge is power and remember you aren’t alone. There are millions of people all over the world that have anxiety and deal with it sometimes daily, sometimes randomly sometimes just situationally with specific phobias. Hang in there, one day at a time.

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One key thing to do to getting the job you want

It’s a hot job market right now in the west, at least in the U.S. where I am. Employers are throwing all sorts of incentives at people. Why this is happening is a complex mix of covid lockdowns, early retirements, people getting other jobs, supply shortages, you name it. So as someone looking for a job you are in a fantastic position. Changing jobs is the single best way to increase your employer based income. Simply put, when you get a new job you likely do so with a 5-25% increase in pay.

Promotions happen too, but it’s not as likely as you going out and getting a new job for more money. How do you get the job you want though? It’s one thing to get another job, there are plenty out there and chances are you’ll make more but how do you get a job you really want?

Before I answer that question we have to be clear here. I want to be a base player for a rock band and play in front of thousands of people. That’s not going to happen, lol. The “key thing” only applies to realistic career expectation. If you are a financial planner and you want to be a brain surgeon this probably won’t work.

For those of you who are closer to the mark, maybe you are a carpenter and want to run your own crew, or you are a warehouse worker and you want to get into management this tip can help.

Careful for what you wish for, you might get it.

So how do you get the job you want? 

You have to ask for the job.

I know sounds WAY to simple doesn’t it. Here’s the thing, asking the question starts the ball rolling. You are planting the seed now, so you can harvest the bounty later. Whomever has the ability to give you the job you have to ask them for it. Every question you don’t ask is a default no anyway so there is that but asking this person that question helps them, help you get that job.

How you ask

  1. “What can I do now to better prepare me for (insert new job name here)”
  2. “I’ve been working hard and improving my skills so I can eventually move into (insert new job name here) my best guess is 2 years from now, that sound about right?
  3. “I see myself in this role (insert new job name here) as part of my career path, do you think I am going to be a good fit for it?”

There are many other ways to frame this dialogue, you have to find what works for you but the point is you need to ask the question, directly or by inference. This can be done during interviews, annually performance reviews, whenever you feel it’s the correct time. The one major caveat is, you have to be asking the right person.

You know who they are, you know who has the ability to put you in a position to get the job you want. This is by no means a full proof system but by asking the question, you put it out there for you and the universe to know that’s what you want. It’s empowering and it puts anyone who hears the question on notice. In today’s work environment that’s huge, now is the time to go after the role you want. It’s a sellers’ market, you are in demand.

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Seasonal Affect Disorder: Winter is coming…. 3 foods you can eat to fight back.

Yes, winter is coming to the west and if you have anxiety like me, the bleak weather of the winter can really make a bad mood worse. November is a transition month weather wise, at least where I live. Fall is departing quickly, and the cold grey winter is near. Most of us soldier through and do the best we can. That said there are things you can do during the doldrums of winter to improve your mood. As someone once said, “you are what you eat”, thankfully that isn’t completely true because god knows what I would have morphed into after all these years.

Berries

Be it strawberries, blueberries or raspberries, the berry family helps a great deal when it comes to fighting stress and exhaustion. The berries are believed to prevent the release of cortisol a stress hormone thereby combating stress.

Dark chocolate

You know the feeling when on your lowest days, you get this strange urge to bite into a chocolate? It is because studies have shown that chocolates especially the dark kind have a high polyphenol content. Polyphenols are a type of antioxidants that can help you get through some tough feelings. Grab a bar with the highest cocoa content.

Bananas

Did you know that the carbohydrates from natural sugars and potassium in bananas can help fuel your brain and make you feel less mentally exhausted? Bananas are rich in magnesium as well, which can help with anxiety and make you sleep well. This winter have more bananas than you usually do, especially if you feel the blues.

Winter is coming.

Berries are remarkable, if you can work them into your diet you will benefit greatly. As I discussed in this blog post Cortisol is a huge culprit in many health issues. Anything you can do to combat it is a positive.

Of course, berries are not in season in the west right now due to the weather. You’re likely going to have to pay more to get them now, still berries are not cost prohibitive but do be mindful of cost. Blueberries are always a good value and usually run cheaper then say strawberries or raspberries.

Consider adding these foods to your diet. Balance is paramount when putting things into your body. Will it help? I don’t know for sure but the three listed, in moderation are very good sources of macro nutrients and vitamins. If the secondary effect is less anxiety that’s a win win!

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You might call it Halloween, someone else might call it Alfablot

It is the Friday before Halloween, and where I live that’s a big deal. Its a fun holiday and it should be better this year as covid restrictions are relaxed (at least where I am). We get a lot of kids at our house nearly 100 every year. We live in one of those developments where people drop their kids off, its safe lot of houses, one way in and surrounded by deep woods. The town I live in also has a curfew on Halloween, 8PM. It’s not a militant curfew, I mean the cops aren’t out in riot gear… but at 8PM they ask you turn your light off and not hand out any candy.

But, how did all this start?

“Today’s religion is tomorrows myth” a wise man. Many celebrations, holidays and religious observances are overlap, borrowed or redundant. When we as a species were in our formidable years around 2000 years ago, religions competed with one another for followers. This isn’t meant to be cynical it’s just how it was. That doesn’t detract from the piety of those at the time, but religion was different then, faith was an absolute. Meaning, there was no internet, cell phone, most people couldn’t read.

Here we are on the cusp of the western worlds holiday season. Halloween ushers in the season, we get veterans day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah and New Year’s Day all within 70 days ( a touch over 2 months). Where do these holidays come from? You likely know some of the stories, you likely know, as an example, that the “12 days of Christmas” run nearly concurrently with Chanukah.

So, what are some of the other holidays that coincide or more accurately, preceded our current festivals? For Halloween there is Alfablot. Here is a link that describes it in more detail

What did your ancestors think?

In short, Aflablot is the sacrifice of the elves. Elves in the Viking world mostly represented dead spirits. So, this was a celebration of the dead, for lack of a more eloquent, and lengthy discussion. Sound familiar? Your Norse ancestors would have celebrated this blot toward the end of October. It was after harvest when the world was becoming bleak and barren.

In antiquity, in the Norse world, this was the time of the dead. You prepared most of the year to survive the winter and this was a time when people died to the elements and illness. The Alfablot was a singular ceremony, meaning each house conducted their own, in an effort to reach ancestors and elves in the hopes of communal discourse.

The hope was you would be able to convince the spirits to protect your house and family. There were no trick or treats but, indeed it was similar to Halloweens origins in spirit. Its symbolic of the end of the harvest, a preparation for winter. This Halloween, have fun, enjoy the celebration where you are as winter is coming (Is that you John Snow?).

Happy Halloween and Happy Alfablot !

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Anxiety issues: Negotiating Salaries

Individuals with Anxiety really struggle with salary negotiations. I know because first I have anxiety and have been there and two I have hired people in prior roles and negotiated salaries. So in this post we will cover 3 things you need to know BEFORE negotiating a salary and 2 things you can say to an interviewer when the subject of salary comes up. First up: What you need to know before negotiating a salary

  1. Your bottom line: So this is vague let me explain. You have to know what your minimum number is. Your circumstances might be unique, maybe you are unemployed, maybe you have a high paying job. Whatever it is you have to know what your bottom line is. Specifically, you need to know what number you will not go below.
  2. Be educated on the range: So there is no one absolute number. Not all Analysts get paid 125K a year etc. You need to go online find a salary range website (there are several) and use that as a gauge for what you should be asking for. HR dept.’s is using these sites as well and they know what the range is. So if its 60-80K and you’re asking for 55K they know you are undervaluing yourself. This presents a few issues; first they are wondering why you are underselling yourself. Second, if they hire you they are doing so knowing that you are undervaluing yourself and its likely they know you will walk (once you find out what you should be paid).
  3. Your skills: You have to be crystal clear on what you can and can’t do. Skills are now paramount and with more and more online work if you say you can do excel you better be able to do excel. Companies aren’t as focused on work history anymore it’s all about the skill set you bring to the table. Included in that is maturity, how well you work with others, attitude. You have to really be clear here, if you don’t work well with others you better know that and if they ask you don’t say it outright but you don’t claim that you can when you know you can’t.
Negotiating pay can be a nightmare

So what about when they ask about salaries? This comes up eventually if you are a serious candidate. Often you will be asked on the first call from HR what your “salary requirements are” so they can eliminate you quickly if it’s not in their budget. Look I’m going to be blunt here, you don’t want to answer this question directly and if they press you then you ask for your max number. Here are two ways to answer it:

  1. “I don’t have a firm number in my head at the moment but I have done the research on the job requirements and with my experience I know approx. what the range is but I am flexible, what is the companies range for this role?”
  2. “I haven’t come up with a number yet as I was really focused on the role and job tasks. The job is very interesting but I suppose I do have to get paid right (chuckle here). I don’t know, what is the range the company is offering?”

Both of these answers throw it back on the person you are speaking with. This is the negotiation phase and everyone has to go through it. They want you at the lowest price possible, you want the highest price. Don’t take it personally, its business and good business too I might add. Chances are the person you are speaking to knows what you are doing and they might press, again your fallback position is the high end of your personal range. ONLY if they demand the number, this gives you the best position in that scenario, if your number wasn’t too high.

Negotiating a salary with anxiety doesn’t have to be painful. Know what you can command in the market place. Your current salary and job is a good starting point. Someone is already paying you that number for that work, so you know you are at least worth that.

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