Grant and Theresa's Life Prep

Making Plans and Achieving Goals

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Happiness Comes From Progress. So Stop Comparing!

Just Keep Climbing

One of the main keys to happiness is making progress in the most important areas of your life.  There is no end point that will make you permanently happy.  In order to stay happy we have to keep climbing the staircase and never go stagnant.  This means we need to spend a lot less time comparing ourselves to those with “perfect” lives and instead start focusing on improving ours.

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Why I “Choose” Free Will

Free will is simply our ability to choose the actions that we take.  Free will is a human characteristic and touches on so many distinctly human things.  Morality, laws, sin, religion, politics, guilt, punishment, and reward are all tied to the concept of free will.  Most of the articles I write are about making better choices.  I have written about how to lose weight, pay off student loans, get stronger, choose the right major, etc which all rely on free will.

However, a few months ago I saw a video by Sam Harris talking about the concept of free will.  In the video, Sam argues that free will is just an illusion and that our entire lives are predetermined.  This got me thinking and I quickly found myself going down a rabbit hole of researching this concept.  I even read Sam’s short book on the topic, Free Will, which further clarifies his views.  This idea was both new to me and disturbing to me.  I actually didn’t sleep well for a few nights because I was spending hours researching and thinking about this idea.  Is it possible that I have no ability to choose what my next action will be?

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Never Finance: Always Pay Cash For Cars

First Guest Post!

Very excited to be featured over at My Strategic Dollar, Lance’s personal finance blog.  I was asked if I would do a post about why I always pay cash for cars.  I happily accepted as I think car payments are a trap that people jump into along with their first job and usually never get out of.

In the post, I lay out why I disagree with financing a car, even if you have a low-interest rate.  I explain why leveraging debt earns you very little or nothing, I explain how the risk vs reward just isn’t logical, and I show you how to avoid ever having car payments.

Check It Out Here

I will be sure to check in regularly to respond to any comments and criticism as I know people love their car payments.

-Grant

Read Less and Act More

I love reading.  I read every morning, I listen to audio books in my car and check a few blogs at work.  The trap I fall into is reading these fantastic, life changing books only to set them down and move onto to the next one.  What good is it to read Think and Grow Rich if you aren’t integrating the concepts into your life?  Knowledge alone will do nothing for your success.  We need to read less and act more. Continue reading

Q1 New Years Resolution Update

Well, we are a fourth of the way through the year and I’m still at least talking about my new year’s resolutions so I guess that is a good thing.   As we all know it can be quite challenging to achieve big long term goals like a New Years resolution.  Hopefully, everyone out there is still crushing any big goals they set for themselves.  Without wasting much time lets just get right into how I’m doing. Continue reading

New Year, New You! 2017 Resolutions

Ah the new year is upon us and it is that time to start creating our wish lists, I mean our New Year’s resolutions.  Personally I get excited about this time of year.  I always enjoy reflecting on the past and planning for the future.  Where did I succeed and where did I fall short but more importantly what am I going to achieve next year.  A lot of self help type experts don’t really like the idea of New Year’s resolutions because people shouldn’t be only trying to achieve goals one time per year.  While that is totally true I still like creating some one year targets while enjoying the increased motivation and energy that comes from setting big goals and dreaming about the future.  So lets see how we did and where we are going. Continue reading

Book Review: You Are Not Your Brain by Jeffrey M Schwartz and Rebecca Gladding

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Who doesn’t have at least some bad habits or compulsive thoughts?  This book is all about how to deal with those bad habits and unhelpful thoughts.  It starts off by making a statement that is actually quite controversial in the world of neuroscience and that is that the brain and the mind are two separate things.  This idea of brain and mind is of much debate because we know so little about the brain and how it works.  If one side could prove the other wrong, they would.

The idea is that the brain is somewhat like the heart.  It is constantly working behind the scenes to keep us alive and well.  We never have to think about how extremely complex a task like walking up stairs is because our brain has developed super efficient neural pathways to handle such tasks.

The mind, on the other hand, is kind of the higher level thinking, planning, goal setting part of the body.  When we are trying to decide between right and wrong, we are using our mind.  When we are trying to set a goal to lose weight, we are using the mind.

So we clearly need both the brain and the mind to exist in this world.  The problem comes from unconsciously allowing the formation of bad habits.  See, the brain doesn’t know the difference between “good” habits and “bad” habits.  It simply sees something you are doing on a regular basis that is typically providing some sort of primal type reward so it starts forming the neural pathways so the tasks becomes easier.  Perhaps when you were a kid, your parents gave you ice cream every night as a treat.  So your brain developed the habit/thought/urge/desire that you eat ice cream at the end of the day to reward yourself.  So when 8:00 rolls around your brain starts to crave that reward that it has been programmed to receive and if you don’t involve your mind at this point you will just go straight to the freezer for the frozen treat.  This repetition is what forms all habits like smoking, drinking, eating junk, pornography, drugs, compulsive thoughts, etc.

This is where the book “You Are Not Your Brain” comes in.  They recommend a 4 step solution with its roots based in cognitive behavioral therapy to deal with these situations.  It is all about becoming more mindful of your thoughts and questioning things.  You can’t help what thoughts pop into your brain as you have been programming your brain for many years on how to respond to certain stimuli.  You can’t just make the thought never appear again.  So you are trying to use your mind to figure out what false message the brain is giving you by using the four steps.  The four steps are Relabel, Reframe, Refocus and Revalue.

With Step 1, Relabel, you are just trying to identify the deceptive brain message like “oh some ice cream would be a great way to finish off the night”.  In Step 2, Reframe, you want to examine the deceptive brain message by using your mind.  Think about your goals, values and purpose in life and decide from this higher state if this message is true.  I found it helpful to envision talking to a friend about this.  If someone called you, who you knew was having health problems and trying to lose weight, what would you tell them about this ice cream situation?

Step 3, Refocus, is the key to the program.  Therefore, it is also the hardest step because you are going to break the cycle and go against your habits and deceptive thoughts and that is going to feel very uncomfortable.  With Refocus, you are going to choose to do something helpful or productive.  Typically, it is good to have a pre-made list of different activities you can do.  So instead of eating that ice cream, you might choose to read, eat vegetables, go for a walk, call a friend or anything that isn’t harmful to you and isn’t eating the ice cream.  The key with this step is that you are not trying to suppress the urge to eat ice cream.  You are going to willingly accept that the urge is there and that there isn’t anything you can do about that.  The mind can choose the actions but can’t stop or suppress the thoughts from the brain.  So while you are focused on reading, the false message will eventually fade.  No urge lasts forever.

Step 4, Revalue, is kind of your summary of events.  It is about clearly seeing that the thoughts, urges and desires are nothing more than sensations caused by the deceptive brain messages.  These messages are not true and deserve little to no attention from you.  Revalue allows you to see past the brain message and see your true self.  From there, you can see that you are a wonderful person and have the power to choose how to act.

Overal,l I really enjoyed the book and the author’s take on breaking habits and compulsive thoughts.  My biggest take-away is that you should not try to fight the urge.  You should accept that it is going to be there and then choose to Refocus your attention on something productive.  I think, too often, we focus on trying to make the urge go away but by doing that we are actually focusing on the one thing that we shouldn’t.  “You Are Not Your Brain” provides a proven method and will definitely help you if you put forth the effort.  Breaking bad habits is very tough but can be done.  The books offers lots of tips and tables to help you along the way.

My only complaint about the book is that you can tell that it was originally written with the target audience of people with OCD.  The majority of the examples have to deal with people constantly checking email, worrying about people dying and thinking other people hate you.  I would have liked to have seen some more examples of people trying to break more traditional bad habits like overeating, gambling, alcohol, drugs and smoking.  They did have some, of course, but I think it would have been more helpful had they had more.

If you have read it, let me know your thoughts.  Did you have a particularly bad habit or OCD thought that you were able to overcome?

 

-Grant

 

Book Review: Luke by Luke

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Luke is the third gospel in the bible and we are fairly certain was written by a man named Luke.  It was believed that Luke was a Physician of the time.  Luke dedicates the book to Theophilus who is believed to be the one who financially sponsored Luke.  While impossible to know for certain but Luke was most likely written around AD 70 (Guesses range from AD 60-100) which is shortly after Mathew.  Some interesting things about Luke is that he was a close fried to Paul, he also wrote Acts, Luke is the longest gospel and he wrote more in the new testament than any other author.  Most people always think of Paul as the biggest contributor so  I was a bit surprised to have learned that it was actually Luke.

Luke starts off with a short introduction which gives his purpose for writing this.  He basically states that others have written of the events of Christ but he is looking to create the most historically accurate document possible so that Theophilus can feel confident in what he has been taught.  I get the impression that Luke was a bit of perfection’s and probably spent years interviewing and gathering information and only writing about things he felt confident in.  The whole book has a bit of feel good vibe to it.  Kind of like what you are learning is true and this is good news for everyone hearing it.

Luke then goes into telling about Jesus’s birth and introduces some of underlining themes and messages of the book.  After that we start to get into the beginnings of Jesus’s public ministry.  We cover a little bit of his time with John and getting baptized.  We start off in Galilee and it doesn’t take long before Jesus starts pissing some people off.  He begins to say early and often that the Kingdom of God taught was absolute authority, healed the sick and cast out demons.  That kind of talk didn’t go over to well with some of the leaders and high priests of the time.  Jesus can of course see the writing is on the wall and tells his disciples that he must suffer and die in Jerusalem.  And then were do they start heading to after leaving Galilee?

Yep we are heading to Jerusalem.  Along the way we get to hear some of the classics stories and lots of parables.  The story of the rich man trying to get into heaven, the prodigal son returning home, the good Samaritan who showed mercy , Lazaurs, the story of Mary and Martha, and eating with Zacchaeus.  Once we get to Jerusalem we get to see just how right that earlier prediction is.  Jesus is clearly an innocent man who has done nothing wrong but is convicted based on the people’s fear and jealousy.  Jesus is tortured and crucified and rises from the dead on the third day as it was predicted.  Only a few brief stories are told after Jesus’s rises from the dead before ascending to heaven.

Luke is very similar to the other gospels, Mark and Mathew.  Luke goes into a little more detail and basically gives the outline of Jesus’s whole life on earth as a man.  Luke teaches that eternal life will be given to those who ask for forgiveness of their sins, honor the lord and love their neighbor.  I did enjoy the book but having just read Mathew and Mark the story is getting a little old once you get to Luke.  Sorry Luke.

By the way I’m still working on how I want to do these book reviews of the bible.  Mark I did a little more like spark notes and this one I’m just giving some basic summary and thoughts.  Let me know which one you guys prefer.

-Grant

Note, if you are looking for a bible I’ve read some or all of the New King James, King James, New Living Translation and New International Version.  Of those I like the New Living Translation the best.  Things are laid out in very easy to understand English and uses more modern phrases.  I’m currently using Tyndale’s New Living Translation Study Bible.

Best Advice For Passing The PE Exam

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I was speaking with a customer last week and he ask me about the PE exam (Professional Engineering Exam).  He had noticed in my signature block that I had passed this exam.  As I was recounting my experience and giving my advice I started to realize just how much of a process it really was.  Usually things seem difficult in the moment but afterwards you can look back and say it wasn’t too bad but this isn’t one of those.  As I was talking through all the different aspects I realized this would make a fantastic post.  Most of this will be similar for everyone but each state does have their own rules that you will need to research.

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Book Review: 15 Laws of Growth by John C Maxwell

15 Laws Of Growth 

“Live them and Reach Your Potential”.  John Maxwell has definitely delivered a fantastic book on personal development.  “The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth” will be one of those timeless books that people are still reading in 30 years and trying to implement.  The book can help you be successful at anything and doesn’t just apply to business.  Apply these Laws to become a great chef or become the starting quarterback or graduate top of your class.

The book is broken down into individual chapters that coincide with each law.  Each chapter is filled with practical advice, quotes and stories that bring each law to life.  My favorite part is at the end of each chapter where there is a call to action.  It lists some specific application examples that you must do if you want to get the most out of this book.  For example, the chapter on “The Law of Environment” is about being around others who are better than you and being forced to constantly learn.  Then, at the end of the chapter, it asks you a series of questions to help you assess your current environment and gives suggestions for how you can improve it.

I initially read this book cover to cover in a couple days to get a general feel for it.  Once I realized how valuable this could be, I decided to dedicate the next 15 weeks to go over each chapter and do all of the action items.  So to start each week, I would read each chapter while underlining phrases and taking notes in the margins.  I would then start to work my way through the action items at the end.  Finally, I would try to come up with one tiny thing I could do that week to apply that law.

Overall, “The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth” was a great book.  This is one of those books that I can see myself reading multiple times or at least skimming through my notes and underlined sections.  The items in this book are things that you can never perfect but instead should always just strive to do better.  You can just kind of spiral upward to reach new levels while getting closer and closer to your potential.  Even if you aren’t going to take the time to dig through it deeply and do every action item in the book, I would still suggest it.  You will almost certainly get something positive out of it.

15 Laws of Growth

Brief Chapter-by-Chapter Highlight

  1. Law of Planning Growth – Don’t spend too much time trying to make the “perfect” plan. Once you realize you should do something, then Do It and learn the rest as you go.
  2. Law of Awareness – Know yourself and what you want to do with life.
  3. Law of the Mirror – Treat yourself with kindness and believe that you are worthy and can achieve anything.
  4. Law of Reflection – Analyze yourself and your actions regularly.  Acknowledge what is working and what isn’t.
  5. Law of Consistency – Have a huge “Why” behind what you are doing and work on building small daily habits that will lead to your growth in your desired areas.
  6. Law of Environment – Be around others who are better than you.  You never want to be a big fish in a small pond as it becomes very difficult to grow.
  7. Law of Design – Come up with systems for your life and constantly evaluate those systems to make them better.  Systems for writing, working out, work projects, etc….
  8. Law of Pain – Don’t fear pain as pain is usually necessary for growth.  You are going to fail your way to success.
  9. Law of the Ladder – Never stop climbing and never stop developing yourself.  Never feel like you have gone as far as you can go.
  10. Law of the Rubber Band – Get out of your comfort zone and take risks that push you.  Keep stretching and reaching towards excellence in all that you do.
  11. Law of Trade Offs – You will have to give up time and resources to grow.  Don’t be afraid to give up a mediocre life out of fear of getting something worse.
  12. Law of Curiosity – Try to always keep a beginners mindset and always feel like you have a lot to learn in all areas.
  13. Law of Modeling – Look to others who have gone where you want to go and ask them for help, follow their advice, read their books, etc.
  14. Law of Expansion – Try to always think in term of “How Can I?” Don’t impose limits on yourself.
  15. Law of Contribution – Give to others.  As you learn and grow, pass that knowledge onto others so that you can receive more.
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