Monday, May 22, 2017

Monday, May 15, 2017


Do Not Despise Your Inner World

"Do not despise your inner world. That is the first and most general piece of advice I would offer… Our society is very outward-looking, very taken up with the latest new object, the latest piece of gossip, the latest opportunity for self-assertion and status. But we all begin our lives as helpless babies, dependent on others for comfort, food, and survival itself. And even though we develop a degree of mastery and independence, we always remain alarmingly weak and incomplete, dependent on others and on an uncertain world for whatever we are able to achieve. As we grow, we all develop a wide range of emotions responding to this predicament: fear that bad things will happen and that we will be powerless to ward them off; love for those who help and support us; grief when a loved one is lost; hope for good things in the future; anger when someone else damages something we care about. Our emotional life maps our incompleteness: A creature without any needs would never have reasons for fear, or grief, or hope, or anger. But for that very reason we are often ashamed of our emotions, and of the relations of need and dependency bound up with them. Perhaps males, in our society, are especially likely to be ashamed of being incomplete and dependent, because a dominant image of masculinity tells them that they should be self-sufficient and dominant. So people flee from their inner world of feeling, and from articulate mastery of their own emotional experiences. The current psychological literature on the life of boys in America indicates that a large proportion of boys are quite unable to talk about how they feel and how others feel — because they have learned to be ashamed of feelings and needs, and to push them underground. But that means that they don’t know how to deal with their own emotions, or to communicate them to others. When they are frightened, they don’t know how to say it, or even to become fully aware of it. Often they turn their own fear into aggression. Often, too, this lack of a rich inner life catapults them into depression in later life. We are all going to encounter illness, loss, and aging, and we’re not well prepared for these inevitable events by a culture that directs us to think of externals only, and to measure ourselves in terms of our possessions of externals.
What is the remedy of these ills? A kind of self-love that does not shrink from the needy and incomplete parts of the self, but accepts those with interest and curiosity, and tries to develop a language with which to talk about needs and feelings. Storytelling plays a big role in the process of development. As we tell stories about the lives of others, we learn how to imagine what another creature might feel in response to various events. At the same time, we identify with the other creature and learn something about ourselves. As we grow older, we encounter more and more complex stories — in literature, film, visual art, music — that give us a richer and more subtle grasp of human emotions and of our own inner world. So my second piece of advice, closely related to the first, is: Read a lot of stories, listen to a lot of music, and think about what the stories you encounter mean for your own life and lives of those you love. In that way, you will not be alone with an empty self; you will have a newly rich life with yourself, and enhanced possibilities of real communication with others. - Martha Nussbaum"

Monday, May 08, 2017

It's Not Where You Start

“It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish,
  Nobody starts a winner, give me a slow beginner,”

   - Song by Barbara Cook, Songwriters Dorothy Fields/Arthur Schwartz

Thursday, May 04, 2017

The Different Pawed

 In this world of the simple and odd,
The bent and the plain, 
the unbalanced bod,
The imperfect people and differently pawed, 
some live without love... 
That's how they're flawed.

 - Berkeley Breathed

Taste All Wines

“You can only know a good wine if you have first tasted a bad one.”

― Paulo Coelho

Taking Care

If you want to take care of tomorrow, take better care of today.

~Dainin Katagiri~

Monday, May 01, 2017

Knowing is Not Enough

"Principles are good and worth the effort only when they develop into deeds," - Van Gogh

"Our neurons must be used...not only to know but to transform knowledge, not only to experience but also to construct." - Santiago Ramon y Cajal Diseases of the Will: Neuroscience Founding Father Santiago Ramon y Cajal on the Six Psychological Flaws that Keep the Talented from Achieving Greatness

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Befriending Who I Am

Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better, it’s about befriending who we are.
~Ani Pema Chodron~

Knowledge is Only a Rumor

Creativity embeds knowledge so that it can become practice. We move what we’re learning from our heads to our hearts through our hands. We are born makers, and creativity is the ultimate act of integration — it is how we fold our experiences into our being… The Asaro tribe of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea has a beautiful saying: “Knowledge is only a rumor until it lives in the muscle.”
–Brené Brown, from Rising Strong 

Friday, April 28, 2017

On the 20th Century

Tonight I went to see the Cygnet Theater's production of On the 20th Century. It's an over-the-top operetta musical comedy farce with no opportunity for a cheap laugh left untouched. I haven't laughed at a show of any kind like that in a long time. My friend Nate went with me and enjoyed it as well. What a treat!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Tonight's Bonfire

Though Tuesday nights are not usually good nights for me to plan evening activities tonight I made it to the bonfire for the first time in many months and I was very glad I did. North Cove Beach on Vacation Island in Mission Bay is a lovely quiet spot during the week. Sometime after this picture, after the sun set and after the fire quieted down the wind fell away and the bay turned to glass reflecting all the lights of the city. A lovely way to spend the evening.

Book Review

Dombey and SonDombey and Son by Charles Dickens

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

noun: dated literary
a substitute, especially for a medicine or drug.
“The head was followed by a perfect desert of chin, and by a shirt-collar and neckerchief, and by a dreadnought pilot-coat, and by a pair of dreadnought pilot-trousers, whereof the waistband was so very broad and high, that it became a succedaneum for a waistcoat: being ornamented near the wearer’s breast-bone with some massive wooden buttons, like backgammon men. As the lower portions of these pantaloons became revealed, Bunsby stood confessed; his hands in their pockets, which were of vast size; and his gaze directed, not to Captain Cuttle or the ladies, but the mast-head.”

noun: a feeling of unease or embarrassment; awkwardness.
synonyms: embarrassment, unease, uneasiness, awkwardness, discomfort, discomposure
"Shame, disappointment, and discomfiture gnawed at his heart; a constant apprehension of being overtaken, or met—for he was groundlessly afraid even of travellers, who came towards him by the way he was going—oppressed him heavily. The returned unweakened in the day. The monotonous ringing of the bells and tramping of the horses; the monotony of his anxiety, and useless rage; the monotonous wheel of fear, regret, and passion, he kept turning round and round; made the journey like a vision, in which nothing was quite real but his own torment."

Some of Dickens most vivid language. It flows effortlessly from realism to impressionism, from muddy, gritty details to allegory and free association of universal truths and the indifference of the glory of the rising sun to the misery of our maddening lives. It's similar in theme to Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" except instead of romance the story is told through the experience of a shipping magnate whose excessive pride takes him from extreme wealth, wife, and children to bankruptcy, isolation, and near death. And like Jane Austen's novel Dickens' Dombey is redeemed by the love and forgiveness of a strong woman.

Reading Dombey and Son is like sitting down to a rich dinner; the language and detail of emotions is delicious and amazing. And Dickens never seemed to grow tired of it and rush the ending as some authors do, but kept up the pace of brilliance through each of about four endings while he wraps up all of the story lines and characters he's introduced.

"...when I thought so much of all the causes that had made me what I was, I needed to have allowed more for the causes that had made him what he was. I will try, then, to forgive him his share of blame. Let him try to forgive me mine!”

My main critique, and the reason I took so long to finish, is that most chapters detail the actions and motivations of the members of the Dombey household and almost everything happens within London. As beautiful as it's written I kept hoping the action would switch to one of the other characters who's lost at sea. He eventually finds his way back, but the details of how or his adventures doing so are not included. If Herman Melville would've been enlisted to step in and give us exploits of our boy Walter on the high seas that would have been fun indeed.

But it's a great book and worthwhile for any Dickens fan to read. I found myself newly amazed at Dickens' insights into the human heart and the motivations of women and men. In this age of the fast words found in Twitter, texts, and Facebook clickbait sinking one's teeth into a full course reading rich in all the colors of the English language is food for the soul.

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We Need Each Other and We Need Diversity

   I came across two articles that seems about very different things, but to me they're saying the same thing.
   The first one is a summary and review of the book The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben:

 “Why do they share food with their own species and sometimes even go so far as to nourish their competitors? The reasons are the same as for human communities: there are advantages to working together. A tree is not a forest. On its own, a tree cannot establish a consistent local climate. It is at the mercy of wind and weather. But together, many trees create an ecosystem that moderates extremes of heat and cold, stores a great deal of water, and generates a great deal of humidity. And in this protected environment, trees can live to be very old.”

   The second article is a Ted Talk describing the newest research into why a trait limiting reproduction doesn't disappear, but instead is seen throughout history, across cultures, and in most species of animals.

   Both articles point to our need for each other and the more diverse we are the stronger we are.

Friday, April 21, 2017


Vang brought flan she'd made to Mama's Kitchen this morning. Man, was it good! Way better than any I've had before. I tend to avoid ordering it in Restaurants, and now I know it's because I've never had any like this.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Guest House


We can also approach
the importance of compassion 
through intelligent reasoning.
If I help another person, 
and show concerns for
him or her, 
then I myself
will benefit from that.
However, if I harm others,
eventually I will be in trouble.
I often joke, half sincerely
and half seriously, saying
that if we wish to be truly selfish, 
then we should be wisely selfish
rather than foolishly selfish.
Our Intelligence can help
to adjust our attitude in this
respect. If we use it well,
we can gain insights as to
how we can fulfill our own
self-interest by leading a 
compassionate way of life.

H.H. the XIVth Dalai Lama

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Bruce Lee

Where some people have a self, most people have a void, because they are too busy in wasting their vital creative energy to project themselves as this or that, dedicating their lives to actualizing a concept of what they should be like rather than actualizing their potentiality as a human being.... We are what we are.”  -  Bruce Lee

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Bike Ride

This morning I rode my bicycle from home to the other side of Balboa Park and back. Even though I had to walk up part of each side of Florida Canyon, I did really well, especially considering I haven't done that ride in a very long time.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Book Review

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and OrganizingThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondō

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Clutter has only two possible causes: too much effort is required to put things away or it is unclear where things belong.”

A quick and easy and fun read; I really enjoyed this as much for her infectious enthusiasm as for the content. She makes a light, airy, tidy house seem possible even for those of us descended from packrats and borderline hoarders. I love that when it comes to mementos and gifts from important people she points out that their purpose was in the giving and now it's ok to let them go. If her advice to thank your clothes for the good job they did today as you take them off and put them away seems too out there, just think of it as an exercise in mindfulness. Highly recommended.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Dinner with Steve

Steve texted over this selfie he took of the two of us a couple of weeks ago when we were having dinner at The Mediterranean Cafe in Hillcrest. Delicious dinner. The picture also looks good in black and white; kind of like Rick's Cafe in Casablance.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The San Diego Symphony Plays Harry Potter

Tonight's show was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone with the John Williams score played by our own San Diego Symphony. Usher Captains tonight were Linda, Sue, Yours Truly, and Beverly with our fearless leader, House Manager Robert in the back. This was a lot of fun.

There's something magical about watching this movie with 2300 people excited to be there. At the end while the credits rolled, except for a few who ran to the bathroom, the whole audience stayed glued to their seats while the orchestra [played the finale. When finished, they didn't get just a rousing ovation, the audience gave them a roaring standing ovation. Thank you John Williams for introducing people to the wonders of the symphony orchestra.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

The Cambridge Building

A friend posted a meme on Facebook pointing out that while Google Earth allows us to see any place in the world, the place we all look up is our house. In my case the place I like to look up is where I used to live in Champaign, IL. It's looking really good. I'm the one, with the help of my friend Steve Otto, who planted the four dogwood trees across the front. And Brian and I planted some of the hosta that it looks like are still there.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Book Review

QuatrefoilQuatrefoil by James Barr

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A classic groundbreaking gay novel telling the story of a love in a place and time. It also includes the mandatory tragic ending slapped on without which it wouldn't have been published, making it also the telling of gay fiction in a place and a time.

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Book Review

The Outstretched Shadow (Obsidian Mountain, #1)The Outstretched Shadow by Mercedes Lackey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Obsidian Trilogy is a wonderful tale of magic, warrior elves, sentient unicorns, and vengeful greedy demons. Best of all it's not a poor imitation of Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, although it shares with those stories an unlikely hero. It's not without it's flaws. The Demon Prince, both son and lover to the Queen starts out in Book 1 as a deliciously evil, worthy heir, and threat that all good royal sons must be. But in Books 2 & 3 he's reduced to a sniveling mama's boy. And in Book 3 the Demon Army is suddenly marching towards the Golden City with no telling of how the Queen marshalled her feuding houses and summoned all of her forces to emerge from their subterranean kingdom and wage organized war. But the magic and the characters are diverse and unique. A worthy, enthralling tale.

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Book Review

All the President's MenAll the President's Men by Carl Bernstein

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this my Sophomore year(I think) in college for an English class. At the beginning of semester the teacher gave us the assignment of a paper on a book to be due at the end of the semester. My heart sank as he was giving the assignment knowing my seemingly overwhelming habit of procrastinating, knowing I wouldn't even pick out a book until the last minute, then have to read it and write the paper all in a sloppy rush making the whole thing a miserable experience. But then an amazing thing happened; two friends also in the class asked me after class to go to the bookstore with them right then. We walked over there on the spot and picked out our books. I don't think it took very long and I didn't stress over which book to get the way I do now, being already interested in this one and the actual events fresh in my mind. I read it throughput the semester, thoughtfully wrote the paper and turned it in on time, a rarity for me. It's too bad I don't still have it. Worse, I wish I could remember the names of those two nice people who were so nice and who didn't know the favor they did me that day.

The book is excellent. Possibly it should be required reading of all students. The story telling, by two top journalists at the top of their game, is gripping. The story itself needs no embellishment beyond the facts; they speak for themselves.

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Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Chieftains

Irish music, Irish dancing with some American country music and ABBA thrown in for good measure. So much fun! 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Keeping Kitties Company

I got to spend the weekend with Stella, Spanky, and Bubba while Steve and Craig were out of town.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Dear Mr. Nadeau

Dear Mr. Nadeau:

As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.

Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society — things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.

Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.


E. B. White

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

The Coming Train

The Coming Train, 1880, oil on canvas by American artist Edward Lamson Henry (1841–1919).

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Dinner at Villa de Fanta

I went to Steve's for dinner. Craig joined us. Steve grilled steaks and afterwards fell asleep while Craig and I talked.

Friday, February 03, 2017

How Cold Showers And Tough Mudders Can Make You Better At Your Job

Purposefully making yourself uncomfortable can help you push beyond your limits and accomplish more.

STEPHANIE VOZZA 02.03.17 5:58 AM

Standing barefoot in the snow. Soaking in a tub of icy water. Taking a plunge in a cold lake. These things sound really uncomfortable and a little crazy, right? But investigative journalist Scott Carney says a regular habit of any of them can improve your health and reduce your stress.

Carney discovered the life-changing power of extreme environments in 2013 when he set out to debunk eccentric Dutch fitness guru Wim Hof’s claim that he could control his body temperature and immune system at will. Carney had just written about another so-called guru who had lost touch with reality in the pursuit of enlightenment, and he was pretty sure Hof was another charlatan.

Related: The Scientific Case For Cold Showers

"I thought perhaps he had genetic adaptations and others would die if they tried to emulate him," says Carney. "I was going to prove him wrong, and as it turned out that wasn’t the case. Within a week I was able to replicate the feat he could do."

"The problem is that technology has outpaced our body’s ability to adapt."

The experience prompted Carney to eventually climb to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro wearing nothing but shorts and hiking boots, and sit on the snowy banks of a river until the ice melted around him. He chronicles his limit-pushing adventures in his new book, What Doesn’t Kill Us: How Freezing Water, Extreme Altitude and Environmental Conditioning Will Renew Our Lost Evolutionary Strength, and suggests that extreme activities (when done with a doctor’s approval) could improve your life, too.

"I’m not an adventure seeker; I’m not even an athlete," he says. "I happened to be pulled along and discovered these are innate human abilities."

The environment is an important but forgotten stimulus, says Carney. "We used to think health relied on diet and exercise," he says. "It is those things, but it’s also the space you inhabit. The problem is that technology has outpaced our body’s ability to adapt."

Our species has had 200,000 years of constant environmental changes and the evolutionary system had adapted to deal with it, while climate control has been around for just about 150 years, says Carney. "The drive for comfort was once something we could never achieve," he says. "But now comfort is available at flip of a switch, and that’s a terrible thing for our bodies."


Our body’s ability for handling the environment sits untapped, waiting to act. "The immune system is like a predator in the body, going around trying to kill bacteria, but its job has been compromised and it’s got nothing to do," says Carney. In some cases it turns against the body with autoimmune diseases. Using environmental stimuli gives the command structure something to do. It’s like giving that predator a chew toy."

"Comfort isn’t inherently bad, what’s bad is the worship of comfort."

Regular exposure to cold triggers a number of processes to warm up the body, and those adjustments will help regulate blood sugar, exercise the circulatory system, and heighten mental awareness, says Carney. Studies have shown cold exposure treatment can help with conditions such as Crohn’s and Parkinson’s disease and obesity.


Growth starts with a willingness to break yourself down, try new things that challenge you, and feel discomfort or even pain on the road to remaking yourself even better, says Sarah Robb O’Hagan, author of Extreme You: Step Up. Stand Out. Kick Ass. Repeat. "Your greatest potential is not found in your comfort zone," she says. "We now have scientific research showing that getting outside of our comfort zone is what develops our personal growth. That’s why extreme fitness endeavors are now so popular."

"Your strength grows when you are trying something new and figuring out how to accomplish it."

Robb O’Hagan says the training for a Tough Mudder competition pushed her to examine her limits. "The thought of jumping into a dumpster of ice cubes is far from enticing, but once you do it you feel this huge sense of accomplishment and frankly newfound confidence because you survived it," she says. "There's no question that it leaves you feeling stronger than before you took on the challenge. Research shows that muscle and brain power act very similarly. Your strength grows when you are trying something new and figuring out how to accomplish it."


If mountain climbing and icy baths aren’t your thing, you can still find benefit from introducing some discomfort in your life. Carney suggests starting your day with a cold shower. "Once you do that, everything else feels easier," says Carney. "A cold shower will give you a little more resilience to get through day. It goes to your nervous system to a place where your body deals with environmental stress. Other stresses will not feel like as big a deal."

Or keep your thermostat at 63 degrees. "It’s right at a point where you might feel like you might need to shiver," he says. "And one of the things we do in the training is we suppress your natural shiver response to make your body find a different way to heat itself. And this is usually ramping up the metabolism. And by doing that, you'll burn more calories, you'll get thinner, but you'll also just be more adapted. You will use less energy in general, and that's a good thing.

Comfort isn’t inherently bad, says Kent Burns, president of Simply Driven, an executive search firm. "What’s bad is the worship of comfort," he says. "Candidly, most humans, especially Americans, literally make an idol of their own comfort. Comfort then becomes a master that we serve at the expense of other important things. To grow and realize our potential, we need an outside force, and events like Polar Plunges and Tough Mudders serve that purpose, forcing people to confront obstacles and their own limitations."

Carney admits climbing mountains and sitting on an icy snow bank are extreme tests, but he believes both are important examples of the body’s capabilities. "Don’t be afraid of a little bit of pain," he says. "I’m not suggesting that people get hurt, there’s a difference between damage and pain. Do whatever you can to give your body variation every day. It’s so easy to do; it’s just turning a knob."

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Solana Beach

I took these selfies this morning before heading home from Solana Beach. I helped Andreas clean his place yesterday and we didn't take time out to see the ocean so I did it really quick this morning.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Forever Broke: 15 Things Holding You Back From Becoming a Multi-Millionaire

Forever Broke: 15 Things Holding You Back From Becoming a Multi-Millionaire

As Mark Cuban once said, "Ideas are worthless until you do something with them."

By John Rampton



CREDIT: Getty Images



There's no surefire way to become a millionaire. But there are definitely things that are holding you back from achieving that elusive multi-millionaire status.

Over my 32 years of being alive (yes, I'm 32), I have been a millionaire three times, with over $1 million in my bank account after taxes. Seems pretty cool, right? Not really. I've lost everything twice in my life. Luckily, over the years, I've learned a few things.

Here are 15 habits and mistakes that took me from millionaire to being broke and prevented me from earning it back till I learned to fix them. Once I did, I was free to start saving and living the real life I wanted to live.

1. Living above your means.

"Ninety-five percent of the poor in my study did not save, and most accumulated debt to subsidize their standard of living," writes Tom Corley in Change Your Habits, Change Your Life. "Consequently, they have no money for retirement, for their kids' college, or for pursuing opportunities that present themselves."

And he adds, "Not saving and spending more than you make creates long-term poverty, with no hope of escape."

The wealthy, on the other hand, avoid overspending by living within their means and investing in the future. And they accomplish this by making their spending and budgeting a habit. The wealthy don't just spend their money, they spend it purposefully.

A great place to start is by following the 50/20/30 Guideline.

"The 50/20/30 guideline can be easy to follow because instead of telling you how to break down your budget across 20 or more different categories (who could possibly keep track of that?), it splits everything into three main categories," writes Laura Shin for LearnVest.

These categories include:

Fixed costs, like rent and utilities. It's suggested "that you aim to keep your monthly total no more than 50 percent of your take-home pay," Shin says.Financial goals, such as saving towards retirement or an emergency fund. Shin recommends that you put 20 percent of your take-home pay towards these contributions.Flexible spending, like grocery shopping, entertainment, and hobbies. You should budget no more than 30 percent towards flexible spending.

According to Shin, "The 50/20/30 guideline is just that--a guide. It can be a helpful benchmark when you're assessing where your money is going, but it can also be adjusted to your specific lifestyle and goals."

2. Lack of determination.

"Most people get stuck as soon as the first problems come up. They are not connected enough to the goal of becoming a millionaire and give up as soon as things get tough," says life coach, speaker, and author Lukas Schwekendiek. "But this determination comes in different forms. It is not as simple as to say that they do not want it bad enough, or that they aren't willing to work hard for it. Most of it boils down to the internal struggle."

And he adds, "Becoming a millionaire isn't about collecting $1 million from some place or through hard work. Becoming a millionaire means you go on a journey to change yourself into a person that can handle a million dollars."

3. Neglecting your health.

There's a reason why the wealthy make their health a priority. Being healthier makes you more successful.

Research has found that exercising, eating a healthy diet, and getting a good night's rest can make you more productivedecreases stressboosts your memoryhelps you make smarter decisions more quickly, and prevents health concerns like heart disease and cancer. So instead of being tired, stressed, or constantly sick, you can put your energy towards building your wealth.

4. Purchasing a home.

"Let's say someone tells you to do this: Get all of your money, leverage it up 400 percent, put it all in one investment," writes author and entrepreneur James Altucher.

Do you get a dividend on that investment? No! The reverse. You have to pay money every year in maintenance and property taxes, both of which go up randomly.

Can you get out of the investment? Not really. It's hard.

And when you most need the money, it's impossible.

And that's the situation you're in when purchasing a home. He continues:

Instead of putting all of your money into a house, put a fraction of your money into rent each month and use the rest to figure out how to generate either your own business or (even better) multiple streams of income.

A home will destroy you right at the worst moment.

If you do want to become a homeowner, only do so if you have a stable job, aren't under a mountain of debt, have a good credit score, and have some money stashed away in a savings account.

5. Relying on one source of income.

Even if you have a six-figure salary, never rely on one stream of income. It's a practice that the wealthy have followed for years, because you never know when that cushy job could come to a halt. Additionally, having multiple streams of income allows you to pay off any debt faster and put more money into your investments and retirement.

Thanks to the freelancer generation, you can side-hustle whenever you want, like driving for Uber or Lyft on the weekends, or even start your own business from the comfort of your home.

6. Wasting valuable time.

As Corley says:

How much of your valuable time do you lose parked in front of a screen? Two-thirds of wealthy people watch less than an hour of TV a day and almost that many--63 percent--spend less than an hour a day on the internet unless it is job-related.

Instead, these successful people use their free time engaged in personal development, networking, volunteering, working side jobs or side businesses, or pursuing some goal that will lead to rewards down the road. But 77 percent of those struggling financially spend an hour or more a day watching TV, and 74 percent spend an hour or more a day using the internet recreationally.

7. Not acting on your ideas.

"It's one thing to come up with million-dollar ideas, but a completely different thing to act on them," says marketing expert Bruce Cross. "You will never get rich if you are more of a dreamer who never puts his money where his mouth is. In addition, millionaires do not sit around and watch others advance in life. Millionaires take action to help themselves reach their goals."

As Mark Cuban once said, "Ideas are worthless until you do something with them."

8. Not reading.

The rich are known for wanting to expand their knowledge, stay up-to-date on current events and industry trends, and learn lessons from inspirational figures. In fact, 88 percent of the wealthy read 30 minutes or more every day. As Will Lipovsky notes, reading also brings in various and opposing perspectives and points of view, motivates you to dream bigger, and inspires you to never give up.

9. Fear and negativity.

Emotions, particularly fear and negativity, are two of the biggest obstacles to overcome if you want to become a millionaire. And there's research that backs this up.

According to Barbara Fredrickson, a positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina, negative thoughts, like fear, narrow your mind and focus. Positive thoughts, however, are able to open your mind to more possibilities and options. Furthermore, positive emotions also enhance your ability to build skills, as well as develop resources you can use later in life.

Millionaires aren't afraid to step out of their comfort zone and take calculated risks. If they fail, they'll learn from that failure so that they won't repeat the same mistakes again.

10. Not setting goals.

"You cannot control the outcome of a wish, but you can control the outcome of a goal," says Corley.

"Every year, 70 percent of the wealthy pursue at least one major goal. Only 3 percent of those struggling to make ends meet do this," he adds.

Personally, I've found that setting daily goals first thing in the morning guides me in setting priorities and pushes me to achieve those goals.

11. Avoiding routine.

The most successful people in the world--including Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett, Barack Obama, and Arianna Huffington--are known for sticking to a routine. Why? Because a routine eliminates energy draining tasks and decision fatigue.

"It's not about copying Richard Branson or Steve Jobs's daily routine, it's about creating and sticking to your own," says author Saul Kropman. "Wake up at 4 a.m. if you're capable of it, but most importantly, create a routine that is plausible and stick with it."

12. Not collecting assets.

"A job will never make you rich. Neither will saving all your cash in a coffee can," says Brandon Turner, vice president of growth at "So how can you build that wealth?"

Assets--such as a profitable business, growing stock portfolio, or investing in the right piece of real estate.

Remember, your car and all those shiny toys that you enjoy are "liabilities that are robbing you of future wealth," Turner says. So he recommends focusing on "collecting things that will make you money in the long term."

13. Spending time with toxic people.

"The toxic people in your life will drag you down. The good people in your life will love you and inspire you. It's push-pull. Let the good people win. Try to improve this every day," says Altucher.

"You can't become successful with toxic people pulling you down. This has nothing to do with your responsibilities in life. This has everything to do with saving your life," he adds. Replace those toxic people with individuals who are positive, supportive, and driven.

14. Failing to follow the 70/30 rule.

Jim Rohn, one of the county's leading authority figures in business, has a simple formula for accumulating wealth: "After you pay your fair share of taxes, learn to live on 70 percent of your after-tax income. These are the necessities and luxuries you spend money on."

Rohn goes on to say that it's then "important to look at how you allocate your remaining 30 percent."

He suggests giving a third to charity, a third toward capital investments, with the final third being placed in a savings account. You probably won't notice much in the beginning, but "let five years lapse and the differences become pronounced. At the end of 10 years, the differences are dramatic," he says.

15. Not having a mentor.

"Finding a mentor puts you on the fast track to wealth accumulation," Corley writes in Change Your Habits, Change Your Life.

"Success mentors do more than simply influence your life in some positive way," he continues. "They regularly and actively participate in your success by teaching you what to do and what not to do. They share with you valuable life lessons they learned either from their own mentors or from the school of hard knocks."

15 Things Holding You Back From Becoming a Multi-Millionaire


Monday, January 30, 2017

Book Review

Why Good People Do Bad Things: How to Stop Being Your Own Worst EnemyWhy Good People Do Bad Things: How to Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy by Debbie Ford

The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness
comes as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
—Rumi; translation by Coleman Bark

"Forgiveness challenges us to find the gold in the dark, the wisdom in our wounds, and the possibility hidden within our pain."

This is an excellent, excellent book. I highly recommend it. Debbie Ford's writing eminently readable, conversational, logical, easy to follow. She's written a lot of books on The Shadow, our darker self we'd like to pretend isn't there but keeps showing up in our lives to lead us astray and avert our path from the best of life. From the different descriptions I just picked this one to start with and, without having read any others yet, I feel like I made a good choice. This is in perhaps the best self-help book, especially for those of us who're so used to bad situations that The Law of Attraction works against us and, like me, can't figure out how to get it going the other way, to work for us. This book is that instruction manual. It tells us how to embrace our past, forgive ourselves, embrace the strength and lessons of our darker selves, and move forward. I highlighted about 10% of the book and made notes to many of those. I really like that she closes with examples from her own shortcomings and how those are also her strengths. Don't bother reading Deepak Chopra on The Shadow and definitely stay away from Marianne Williamson on the subject.

"My fear of being called lazy gives me my drive. It is my vanity that dresses me in the morning and gets me to work out even when I’m tired. My fear of being a negligent mother makes sure that I go to all the flag football games (even when I’m busy) and drive my son to school (even when I’m tired and he could take the bus). It is my greed and love for fine things that drive me to work when others are out partying, and it is my denial of the evil and angry judgments of others that allows me to stand up in front of group after group and tout my message—to heal the split between the two forces that exist within each of us."

View all my reviews

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

There are No Bad People

"The more incompetent one feels, the more eager he is to fight." - Dostoevsky

It is our responsibility as human beings, Dostoyevsky suggests, to peer past the surface insecurities that drive people to lash out and look for the deeper longings, holding up a mirror to one another’s highest ideals rather than pointing the self-righteous finger at each other’s lowest faults. - Maria Popova

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The New Yorker

The Fox

By Tom Sleigh

Marine helicopters on maneuver kept dippingtoward swells at Black’s Beach, my board’s poisegiving way to freefall of my wave tubing
over me, nubs of wax under my feet as I crouchedunder the lip, sped across the face and kicked out—all over Southern Cal a haze settled: as if light breathed
that technicolor smog at sunset overSan Diego Harbor where battleships at anchor,just back from patrolling the South China Sea, were
having rust scraped off and painted gray.This was my inheritance that lay stretched before me:which is when I felt the underbrush give way
and the fox that thrives in my brain,not looking sly but just at home in his peltand subtle paws, broke from cover and ran
across the yard into the future to sniff my gravestone,piss, and move on. And so I was reborn intomy long nose and ears, my coat’s red, white, and brown
giving off my fox smell lying heavy on the windsin the years when I’d outsmart guns, poison,dogs and wire, when the rooster and his hens
clucked and ran, crazy with terrorat how everything goes still in that way a fox adores,gliding through slow-motion drifts of feathers.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Every successful relationship is successful for the same exact reasons

Hey, guess what? I got married two weeks ago. And like most people, I asked some of the older and wiser folks around me for a couple quick words of advice from their own marriages to make sure my wife and I didn’t shit the (same) bed. I think most newlyweds do this, especially after a few cocktails from the open bar they just paid way too much money for.
But, of course, not being satisfied with just a few wise words, I had to take it a step further.
See, I have access to hundreds of thousands of smart, amazing people through my site. So why not consult them? Why not ask them for their best relationship/marriage advice? Why not synthesize all of their wisdom and experience into something straightforward and immediately applicable to any relationship, no matter who you are?

Why not crowdsource THE ULTIMATE RELATIONSHIP GUIDE TO END ALL RELATIONSHIP GUIDES™ from the sea of smart and savvy partners and lovers here?
So, that’s what I did. I sent out the call the week before my wedding: anyone who has been married for 10+ years and is still happy in their relationship, what lessons would you pass down to others if you could? What is working for you and your partner? And if you’re divorced, what didn’t work previously?
The response was overwhelming. Almost 1,500 people replied, many of whom sent in responses measured in pages, not paragraphs. It took almost two weeks to comb through them all, but I did. And what I found stunned me…
They were incredibly repetitive.

And yet they were all saying pretty much the same dozen things.
Which means that those dozen or so things must be pretty damn important… and more importantly, they work.
Here’s what they are:

1. Be together for the right reasons

Don’t ever be with someone because someone else pressured you to. I got married the first time because I was raised Catholic and that’s what you were supposed to do. Wrong. I got married the second time because I was miserable and lonely and thought having a loving wife would fix everything for me. Also wrong. Took me three tries to figure out what should have been obvious from the beginning, the only reason you should ever be with the person you’re with is because you simply love being around them. It really is that simple.
– Greg
Before we even get into what you should do in your relationship, let’s start with what not to do.
When I sent out my request to readers for advice, I added a caveat that turned out to be illuminating. I asked people who were on their second or third (or fourth) marriages what they did wrong. Where did they mess up?
By far, the most common answer was “being with the person for the wrong reasons.”
Some of these wrong reasons included:
  • Pressure from friends and family
  • Feeling like a “loser” because they were single and settling for the first person that came along
  • Being together for image—because the relationship looked good on paper (or in photos), not because the two people actually admired each other
  • Being young and naive and hopelessly in love and thinking that love would solve everything
As we’ll see throughout the rest of this article, everything that makes a relationship “work” (and by work, I mean that it is happy and sustainable for both people involved) requires a genuine, deep-level admiration for each other. Without that mutual admiration, everything else will unravel.
The other “wrong” reason to enter into a relationship is, like Greg said, to “fix” yourself. This desire to use the love of someone else to soothe your own emotional problems inevitably leads to codependence, an unhealthy and damaging dynamic between two people where they tacitly agree to use each other’s love as a distraction from their own self-loathing. We’ll get more into codependence later in this article, but for now, it’s useful to point out that love, itself, is neutral. It is something that can be both healthy or unhealthy, helpful or harmful, depending on why and how you love someone else and are loved by someone else. By itself, love is never enough to sustain a relationship.

2. Have realistic expectations about relationships and romance

You are absolutely not going to be absolutely gaga over each other every single day for the rest of your lives, and all this “happily ever after” bullshit is just setting people up for failure. They go into relationship with these unrealistic expectations. Then, the instant they realize they aren’t “gaga” anymore, they think the relationship is broken and over, and they need to get out. No! There will be days, or weeks, or maybe even longer, when you aren’t all mushy-gushy in-love. You’re even going to wake up some morning and think, “Ugh, you’re still here….” That’s normal! And more importantly, sticking it out is totally worth it, because that, too, will change. In a day, or a week, or maybe even longer, you’ll look at that person and a giant wave of love will inundate you, and you’ll love them so much you think your heart can’t possibly hold it all and is going to burst. Because a love that’s alive is also constantly evolving. It expands and contracts and mellows and deepens. It’s not going to be the way it used to be, or the way it will be, and it shouldn’t be. I think if more couples understood that, they’d be less inclined to panic and rush to break up or divorce.
– Paula
Love is a funny thing. In ancient times, people genuinely considered love a sickness. Parents warned their children against it, and adults quickly arranged marriages before their children were old enough to do something dumb in the name of their emotions.
That’s because love, while making us feel all giddy and high as if we had just snorted a shoebox full of cocaine, makes us highly irrational. We all know that guy (or girl) who dropped out of school, sold their car, and spent the money to elope on the beaches of Tahiti. We all also know that that guy (or girl) ended up sulking back a few years later feeling like a moron, not to mention broke.
That’s unbridled love. It’s nature’s way of tricking us into doing insane and irrational things to procreate with another person—probably because if we stopped to think about the repercussions of having kids, and being with the same person forever and ever, no one would ever do it. As Robin Williams used to joke, “God gave man a brain and a penis and only enough blood to operate one at a time.”
Romantic love is a trap designed to get two people to overlook each other’s faults long enough to get some babymaking done. It generally only lasts for a few years at most. That dizzying high you get staring into your lover’s eyes as if they are the stars that make up the heavens—yeah, that mostly goes away. It does for everybody. So, once it’s gone, you need to know that you’ve buckled yourself down with a human being you genuinely respect and enjoy being with, otherwise things are going to get rocky.
True love—that is, deep, abiding love that is impervious to emotional whims or fancy—is a choice. It’s a constant commitment to a person regardless of the present circumstances. It’s a commitment to a person who you understand isn’t going to always make you happy—nor should they!—and a person who will need to rely on you at times, just as you will rely on them.
That form of love is much harder. Primarily because it often doesn’t feel very good. It’s unglamorous. It’s lots of early morning doctor’s visits. It’s cleaning up bodily fluids you’d rather not be cleaning up. It’s dealing with another person’s insecurities and fears and ideas, even when you don’t want to.
But this form of love is also far more satisfying and meaningful. And, at the end of the day, it brings true happiness, not just another series of highs.
Happily Ever After doesn’t exist. Every day you wake up and decide to love your partner and your life—the good, the bad and the ugly. Some days it’s a struggle and some days you feel like the luckiest person in the world.
– Tara
Many people never learn how to breach this deep, unconditional love. Many people are instead addicted to the ups and downs of romantic love. They are in it for the feels, so to speak. And when the feels run out, so do they.
Many people get into a relationship as a way to compensate for something they lack or hate within themselves. This is a one-way ticket to a toxic relationship because it makes your love conditional—you will love your partner as long as they help you feel better about yourself. You will give to them as long as they give to you. You will make them happy as long as they make you happy.
This conditionality prevents any true, deep-level intimacy from emerging and chains the relationship to the bucking throes of each person’s internal dramas.

3. The most important factor in a relationship is not communication, but respect

What I can tell you is the #1 thing, most important above all else is respect. It’s not sexual attraction, looks, shared goals, religion or lack of, nor is it love. There are times when you won’t feel love for your partner. That is the truth. But you never want to lose respect for your partner. Once you lose respect you will never get it back.
– Laurie
As we scanned through the hundreds of responses we received, my assistant and I began to notice an interesting trend.
People who had been through divorces and/or had only been with their partners for 10-15 years almost always talked about communication being the most important part of making things work. Talk frequently. Talk openly. Talk about everything, even if it hurts.
And there is some merit to that (which I’ll get to later).
But we noticed that the thing people with marriages going on 20, 30, or even 40 years talked about most was respect.
My sense is that these people, through sheer quantity of experience, have learned that communication, no matter how open, transparent and disciplined, will always break down at some point. Conflicts are ultimately unavoidable, and feelings will always be hurt.
And the only thing that can save you and your partner, that can cushion you both to the hard landing of human fallibility, is an unerring respect for one another, the fact that you hold each other in high esteem, believe in one another—often more than you each believe in yourselves—and trust that your partner is doing his/her best with what they’ve got.
Without that bedrock of respect underneath you, you will doubt each other’s intentions. You will judge their choices and encroach on their independence. You will feel the need to hide things from one another for fear of criticism. And this is when the cracks in the edifice begin to appear.
My husband and I have been together 15 years this winter. I’ve thought a lot about what seems to be keeping us together, while marriages around us crumble (seriously, it’s everywhere… we seem to be at that age). The one word that I keep coming back to is “respect.” Of course, this means showing respect, but that is too superficial. Just showing it isn’t enough. You have to feel it deep within you. I deeply and genuinely respect him for his work ethic, his patience, his creativity, his intelligence, and his core values. From this respect comes everything else—trust, patience, perseverance (because sometimes life is really hard and you both just have to persevere). I want to hear what he has to say (even if I don’t agree with him) because I respect his opinion. I want to enable him to have some free time within our insanely busy lives because I respect his choices of how he spends his time and who he spends time with. And, really, what this mutual respect means is that we feel safe sharing our deepest, most intimate selves with each other.
– Nicole
You must also respect yourself. Just as your partner must also respect his/herself. Because without that self-respect, you will not feel worthy of the respect afforded by your partner. You will be unwilling to accept it and you will find ways to undermine it. You will constantly feel the need to compensate and prove yourself worthy of love, which will just backfire.
Respect for your partner and respect for yourself are intertwined. As a reader named Olov put it, “Respect yourself and your wife. Never talk badly to or about her. If you don’t respect your wife, you don’t respect yourself. You chose her—live up to that choice.”
So what does respect look like?
Common examples given by many readers:
  • NEVER talk shit about your partner or complain about them to your friends. If you have a problem with your partner, you should be having that conversation with them, not with your friends. Talking bad about them will erode your respect for them and make you feel worse about being with them, not better.
  • Respect that they have different hobbies, interests, and perspectives from you. Just because you would spend your time and energy differently, doesn’t mean it’s better/worse.
  • Respect that they have an equal say in the relationship, that you are a team, and if one person on the team is not happy, then the team is not succeeding.
  • No secrets. If you’re really in this together and you respect one another, everything should be fair game. Have a crush on someone else? Discuss it. Laugh about it. Had a weird sexual fantasy that sounds ridiculous? Be open about it. Nothing should be off-limits.
Respect goes hand-in-hand with trust. And trust is the lifeblood of any relationship (romantic or otherwise). Without trust, there can be no sense of intimacy or comfort. Without trust, your partner will become a liability in your mind, something to be avoided and analyzed, not a protective homebase for your heart and your mind.

4. Talk openly about everything, especially the stuff that hurts

We always talk about what’s bothering us with each other, not anyone else! We have so many friends who are in marriages that are not working well and they tell me all about what is wrong. I can’t help them, they need to be talking to their spouse about this, that’s the only person who can help them figure it out. If you can figure out a way to be able to always talk with your spouse about what’s bugging you then you can work on the issue.
– Ronnie
There can be no secrets. Secrets divide you. Always.
– Tracey
I receive hundreds of emails from readers each week asking for life advice. A large percentage of these emails involve their struggling romantic relationships.
(These emails, too, are surprisingly repetitive.)
A couple years ago, I discovered that I was answering the vast majority of these relationship emails with the exact same response.
“Take this email you just sent to me, print it out, and show it to your partner. Then come back and ask again.”
This response became so common that I actually put it on my contact form on the site because I was so tired of copying and pasting it.
If something bothers you in the relationship, you must be willing to say it. Saying it builds trust and trust builds intimacy. It may hurt, but you still need to do it. No one else can fix your relationship for you. Nor should anyone else. Just as causing pain to your muscles allows them to grow back stronger, often introducing some pain into your relationship through vulnerability is the only way to make the relationship stronger.
Behind respect, trust was the most commonly mentioned trait for a healthy relationship. Most people mentioned it in the context of jealousy and fidelity—trust your partner to go off on their own, don’t get insecure or angry if you see them talking with someone else, etc.
But trust goes much deeper than that. Because when you’re really talking about the long-haul, you start to get into some serious life-or-death shit. If you ended up with cancer tomorrow, would you trust your partner to stick with you and take care of you? Would you trust your partner to care for your child for a week by themselves? Do you trust them to handle your money or make sound decisions under pressure? Do you trust them to not turn on you or blame you when you make mistakes?
These are hard things to do. And they’re even harder to think about early on in a relationship. Trust at the beginning of a relationship is easy. It’s like, “Oh, I forgot my phone at her apartment, I trust her not to sell it and buy crack with the money… I think.”
But the deeper the commitment, the more intertwined your lives become, and the more you will have to trust your partner to act in your interest in your absence.
There’s an old Ben Folds song where he sings, “It seems to me if you cannot trust, you cannot be trusted.” Distrust has a tendency to breed distrust. If your partner is always snooping through your stuff, accusing you of doing things you didn’t do, and questioning all of your decisions, naturally, you will start to question their intentions as well—Why is she so insecure? What if she is hiding something herself?
The key to fostering and maintaining trust in the relationship is for both partners to be completely transparent and vulnerable:
  • If something is bothering you, say something. This is important not only for addressing issues as they arise, but it proves to your partner that you have nothing to hide.
  • Those icky, insecure things you hate sharing with people? Share them with your partner. Not only is it healing, but you and your partner need to have a good understanding of each other’s insecurities and the way you each choose to compensate for them.
  • Make promises and then stick to them. The only way to truly rebuild trust after it’s been broken is through a proven track record over time. You cannot build that track record until you own up to previous mistakes and set about correcting them.
  • Learn to discern your partner’s own shady behavior from your own insecurities (and vice-versa). This is hard and will likely require confrontation to get to the bottom of. But in most relationship fights, one person thinks something is completely “normal” and the other thinks it’s really grade-A “fucked up.” It’s often extremely hard to distinguish who is being irrational and insecure and who is being reasonable and merely standing up for themselves. Be patient in rooting out what’s what, and when it’s your big, gnarly insecurity (and sometimes it will be, trust me), be honest about it. Own up to it. And strive to be better.
Trust is like a china plate. If you drop it and it breaks, you can put it back together with a lot of work and care. If you drop it and break it a second time, it will split into twice as many pieces and it will require far more time and care to put back together again. But drop and break it enough times, and it will shatter into so many pieces that you will never be able to put it back together again, no matter what you do.

5. A healthy relationship means two healthy individuals

Understand that it is up to you to make yourself happy, it is NOT the job of your spouse. I am not saying you shouldn’t do nice things for each other, or that your partner can’t make you happy sometimes. I am just saying don’t lay expectations on your partner to “make you happy.” It is not their responsibility. Figure out as individuals what makes you happy as an individual, be happy yourself, then you each bring that to the relationship.
– Mandy
A lot is made about “sacrifices” in a relationship. You are supposed to keep the relationship happy by consistently sacrificing yourself for your partner and their wants and needs.
There is some truth to that. Every relationship requires each person to consciously choose to give something up at times.
But the problem is when all of the relationship’s happiness is contingent on the other person and both people are in a constant state of sacrifice. Just read that again. That sounds horrible. It reminds me of an old Marilyn Manson song, “Shoot myself to love you; if I loved myself, I’d be shooting you.” A relationship based on sacrifices cannot be sustained, and will eventually become damaging to both individuals in it.
Shitty, codependent relationships have an inherent stability because you’re both locked in an implicit bargain to tolerate the other person’s bad behavior because they’re tolerating yours, and neither of you wants to be alone. On the surface, it seems like “compromising in relationships because that’s what people do,” but the reality is that resentments build up, and both parties become the other person’s emotional hostage against having to face and deal with their own bullshit (it took me 14 years to realize this, by the way).
– Karen
A healthy and happy relationship requires two healthy and happy individuals. Keyword here: “individuals.” That means two people with their own identities, their own interests and perspectives, and things they do by themselves, on their own time.
This is why attempting to control your partner (or submitting control over yourself to your partner) to make them “happy” ultimately backfires—it allows the individual identities of each person to be destroyed, the very identities that attracted each person and brought them together in the first place.
Don’t try to change them. This is the person you chose. They were good enough to marry so don’t expect them to change now.
– Allison
Don’t ever give up who you are for the person you’re with. It will only backfire and make you both miserable. Have the courage to be who you are, and most importantly, let your partner be who they are. Those are the two people who fell in love with each other in the first place.
– Dave
But how does one do this? Well, it’s a bit counterintuitive. But it’s something hundreds and hundreds of successful couples echoed in their emails…

6. Give each other space

Be sure you have a life of your own, otherwise it is harder to have a life together. What do I mean? Have your own interests, your own friends, your own support network, and your own hobbies. Overlap where you can, but not being identical should give you something to talk about and expose one another to. It helps to expand your horizons as a couple, but isn’t so boring as both living the exact same life.
– Anonymous
Among the emails, one of the most popular themes was the importance of creating space and separation from one another.
People sung the praises of separate checking accounts, separate credit cards, having different friends and hobbies, taking separate vacations from one another each year (this has been a big one in my own relationship). Some even went so far as to recommend separate bathrooms or even separate bedrooms.
Some people are afraid to give their partner freedom and independence. This comes from a lack of trust and/or insecurity that if we give our partner too much space, they will discover they don’t want to be with us anymore. Generally, the more uncomfortable we are with our own worthiness in the relationship and to be loved, the more we will try to control the relationship and our partner’s behaviors.
BUT, more importantly, this inability to let our partners be who they are, is a subtle form of disrespect. After all, if you can’t trust your husband to have a simple golfing trip with his buddies, or you’re afraid to let your wife go out for drinks after work, what does that say about your respect for their ability to handle themselves well? What does it say for your respect for yourself? I mean, after all, if you believe a couple after-work drinks is enough to steer your girlfriend away from you, you clearly don’t think too highly of yourself.
Going on seventeen years. If you love your partner enough you will let them be who they are, you don’t own them, who they hang with, what they do or how they feel. Drives me nuts when I see women not let their husbands go out with the guys or are jealous of other women.
– Natalie

7. You and your partner will grow and change in unexpected ways; embrace it

Over the course of 20 years we both have changed tremendously. We have changed faiths, political parties, numerous hair colors and styles, but we love each other and possibly even more. Our grown kids constantly tell their friends what hopeless romantics we are. And the biggest thing that keeps us strong is not giving a fuck about what anyone else says about our relationship.
– Dotti
One theme that came up repeatedly, especially with those married 20+ years, was how much each individual changes as the decades roll on, and how ready each of you have to be to embrace the other partner as these changes occur. One reader commented that at her wedding, an elderly family member told her, “One day many years from now, you will wake up and your spouse will be a different person, make sure you fall in love with that person too.”
It logically follows that if there is a bedrock of respect for each individual’s interest and values underpinning the relationship, and each individual is encouraged to foster their own growth and development, that each person will, as time goes on, evolve in different and unexpected ways. It’s then up to the couple to communicate and make sure that they are consistently a) aware of the changes going on in their partner, and b) continually accepting and respecting those changes as they occur.
Now, you’re probably reading this and thinking, “Sure, Bill likes sausage now, but in a few years he might prefer steak. I can get on board with that.”
No, I’m talking some pretty serious life changes. Remember, if you’re going to spend decades together, some really heavy shit will hit (and break) the fan. Among major life changes people told me their marriages went through (and survived): changing religions, moving countries, death of family members (including children), supporting elderly family members, changing political beliefs, even changing sexual orientation, and in a couple cases, gender identification.
Amazingly, these couples survived because their respect for each other allowed them to adapt and allow each person to continue to flourish and grow.
When you commit to someone, you don’t actually know who you’re committing to. You know who they are today, but you have no idea who this person is going to be in five years, ten years, and so on. You have to be prepared for the unexpected, and truly ask yourself if you admire this person regardless of the superficial (or not-so-superficial) details, because I promise almost all of them at some point are going to either change or go away.
– Michael
But this isn’t easy, of course. In fact, at times, it will be downright soul-destroying.
Which is why you need to make sure you and your partner know how to fight.

8. Get good at fighting

The relationship is a living, breathing thing. Much like the body and muscles, it cannot get stronger without stress and challenge. You have to fight. You have to hash things out. Obstacles make the marriage.
– Ryan Saplan
John Gottman is a hot-shit psychologist and researcher who has spent over 30 years analyzing married couples and looking for keys to why they stick together and why they break up. Chances are, if you’ve read any relationship advice article before, you’ve either directly or indirectly been exposed to his work. When it comes to, “Why do people stick together?” he dominates the field.
What Gottman does is he gets married couples in a room, puts some cameras on them, and then he asks them to have a fight.
Notice: he doesn’t ask them to talk about how great the other person is. He doesn’t ask them what they like best about their relationship.
He asks them to fight. Pick something they’re having problems with and talk about it for the camera.
And from simply analyzing the film for the couple’s discussion (or shouting match, whatever), he’s able to predict with startling accuracy whether a couple will divorce or not.
But what’s most interesting about Gottman’s research is that the things that lead to divorce are not necessarily what you think. Successful couples, like unsuccessful couples, he found, fight consistently. And some of them fight furiously.
He has been able to narrow down four characteristics of a couple that tend to lead to divorces (or breakups). He has gone on and called these “the four horsemen” of the relationship apocalypse in his books. They are:
  1. Criticizing your partner’s character (“You’re so stupid” vs “That thing you did was stupid”)
  2. Defensiveness (or basically, blame shifting, “I wouldn’t have done that if you weren’t late all the time”)
  3. Contempt (putting down your partner and making them feel inferior)
  4. Stonewalling (withdrawing from an argument and ignoring your partner)
The reader emails back this up as well. Out of the 1,500-some-odd emails, almost every single one referenced the importance of dealing with conflicts well.
Advice given by readers included:
  • Never insult or name-call your partner. Put another way: hate the sin, love the sinner. Gottman’s research found that “contempt”—belittling and demeaning your partner—is the number one predictor of divorce.
  • Do not bring previous fights/arguments into current ones. This solves nothing and just makes the fight twice as bad as it was before. Yeah, you forgot to pick up groceries on the way home, but what does him being rude to your mother last Thanksgiving have to do with anything?
  • If things get too heated, take a breather. Remove yourself from the situation and come back once emotions have cooled off a bit. This is a big one for me personally—sometimes when things get intense with my wife, I get overwhelmed and just leave for a while. I usually walk around the block two or three times and let myself seethe for about 15 minutes. Then I come back and we’re both a bit calmer and we can resume the discussion with a much more conciliatory tone.
  • Remember that being “right” is not as important as both people feeling respected and heard. You may be right, but if you are right in such a way that makes your partner feel unloved, then there’s no real winner.
But all of this takes for granted another important point: be willing to fight in the first place.
I think when people talk about the necessity for “good communication” all of the time (a vague piece of advice that everyone says but few people seem to actually clarify what it means), this is what they mean: be willing to have the uncomfortable talks. Be willing to have the fights. Say the ugly things and get it all out in the open.
This was a constant theme from the divorced readers. Dozens (hundreds?) of them had more or less the same sad story to tell:
But there’s no way on God’s Green Earth this is her fault alone. There were times when I saw huge red flags. Instead of trying to figure out what in the world was wrong, I just plowed ahead. I’d buy more flowers, or candy, or do more chores around the house. I was a “good” husband in every sense of the word. But what I wasn’t doing was paying attention to the right things. She wasn’t telling me there wasn’t a problem but there was. And instead of saying something, I ignored all of the signals.
– Jim

9. Get good at forgiving

When you end up being right about something—shut up. You can be right and be quiet at the same time. Your partner will already know you’re right and will feel loved knowing that you didn’t wield it like a bastard sword.
– Brian
In marriage, there’s no such thing as winning an argument.
– Bill
To me, perhaps the most interesting nugget from Gottman’s research is the fact that most successful couples don’t actually resolve all of their problems. In fact, his findings were completely backwards from what most people actually expect: people in lasting and happy relationships have problems that never completely go away, while couples that feel as though they need to agree and compromise on everything end up feeling miserable and falling apart.
To me, like everything else, this comes back to the respect thing. If you have two different individuals sharing a life together, it’s inevitable that they will have different values and perspectives on some things and clash over it. The key here is not changing the other person—as the desire to change your partner is inherently disrespectful (to both them and yourself)—but rather it’s to simply abide by the difference, love them despite it, and when things get a little rough around the edges, to forgive them for it.
Everyone says that compromise is key, but that’s not how my husband and I see it. It’s more about seeking understanding. Compromise is bullshit, because it leaves both sides unsatisfied, losing little pieces of themselves in an effort to get along. On the other hand, refusing to compromise is just as much of a disaster, because you turn your partner into a competitor (“I win, you lose”). These are the wrong goals, because they’re outcome-based rather than process-based. When your goal is to find out where your partner is coming from—to truly understand on a deep level—you can’t help but be altered by the process. Conflict becomes much easier to navigate because you see more of the context.
– Michelle
I’ve written for years that the key to happiness is not achieving your lofty dreams, or experiencing some dizzying high, but rather finding the struggles and challenges that you enjoy enduring.
A similar concept seems to be true in relationships: your perfect partner is not someone who creates no problems in the relationship, rather your perfect partner is someone who creates problems in the relationship that you feel good about dealing with.
But how do you get good at forgiving? What does that actually mean? Again, some advice from the readers:
  • When an argument is over, it’s over. Some couples went as far as to make this the golden rule in their relationship. When you’re done fighting, it doesn’t matter who was right and who was wrong, it doesn’t matter if someone was mean and someone was nice. It’s over. It’s in the past. And you both agree to leave it there, not bring it up every month for the next three years.
  • There’s no scoreboard. No one is trying to “win” here. There’s no, “You owe me this because you screwed up the laundry last week.” There’s no, “I’m always right about financial stuff, so you should listen to me.” There’s no, “I bought her three gifts and she only did me one favor.” Everything in the relationship is given and done unconditionally—that is: without expectation or manipulation.
  • When your partner screws up, you separate the intentions from the behavior. You recognize the things you love and admire in your partner and understand that he/she was simply doing the best that they could, yet messed up out of ignorance. Not because they’re a bad person. Not because they secretly hate you and want to divorce you. Not because there’s somebody else in the background pulling them away from you. They are a good person. That’s why you are with them. If you ever lose your faith in that, then you will begin to erode your faith in yourself.
And finally, pick your battles wisely. You and your partner only have so many fucks to give, make sure you both are saving them for the real things that matter.
Been happily married 40+ years. One piece of advice that comes to mind: choose your battles. Some things matter, worth getting upset about. Most do not. Argue over the little things and you’ll find yourself arguing endlessly; little things pop up all day long, it takes a toll over time. Like Chinese water torture: minor in the short term, corrosive over time. Consider: is this a little thing or a big thing? Is it worth the cost of arguing?
– Fred

10. The little things add up to big things

If you don’t take the time to meet for lunch, go for a walk or go out to dinner and a movie with some regularity then you basically end up with a roommate. Staying connected through life’s ups and downs is critical. Eventually your kids grow up, your obnoxious brother-in-law will join a monastery and your parents will die. When that happens, guess who’s left? You got it… Mr./Mrs. Right! You don’t want to wake up 20 years later and be staring at a stranger because life broke the bonds you formed before the shitstorm started. You and your partner need to be the eye of the hurricane.
– Brian
Of the 1,500 responses I got, I’d say about half of them mentioned at some point or another one simple but effective piece of advice: Don’t ever stop doing the little things. They add up.
Things as simple as saying, “I love you,” before going to bed, holding hands during a movie, doing small favors here and there, helping with some household chores. Even cleaning up when you accidentally pee on the toilet seat (seriously, someone said that)—these things all matter and add up over the long run.
The same way Fred, married for 40+ years, stated above that arguing over small things consistently wears you both down, “like Chinese water torture,” so do the little favors and displays of affection add up. Don’t lose them.
This seems to become particularly important once kids enter the picture. The big message I heard hundreds of times about kids: put the marriage first.
Children are worshipped in our culture these days. Parents are expected to sacrifice everything for them. But the best way to raise healthy and happy kids is to maintain a healthy and happy marriage. Good kids don’t make a good marriage. A good marriage makes good kids. So keep your marriage the top priority.
– Susan
Readers implored to maintain regular “date nights,” to plan weekend getaways and to make time for sex, even when you’re tired, even when you’re stressed and exhausted and the baby is crying, even when Junior has soccer practice at 5:30am the next day. Make time for it. It’s worth it.
Oh, and speaking of sex…

11. Sex matters… a LOT

And you know how you know if you or her are slipping? Sex starts to slide. Period. No other test required.
– Anonymous
I still remember back in college, it was one of my first relationships with a cute little redhead. We were young and naive and crazy about each other. And, because we happened to live in the same dorm, we were banging like rabbits.
It was everything a 19-year-old male could ask for.
Then after a month or two, we hit our first “rough patch” in the relationship. We fought more often, found ourselves getting annoyed with each other, and suddenly our multiple-times-per-day habit magically dried up. And it wasn’t just with her, but with me. To my surprised adolescent male mind, it was actually possible to have sex available to you yet not want it.
It was almost as if sex was connected to emotions! For a dumb 19-year-old, this was a complete shocker.
That was the first time I discovered a truth about relationships: sex is the State of the Union. If the relationship is good, the sex will be good. You both will be wanting it and enjoying it. When the relationship is bad—when there are unresolved problems and unaddressed negative emotions—then the sex will often be the first thing to go out the window.
This was reiterated to me hundreds of times in the emails. The nature of the sex itself varied quite a bit among couples—some couples take sexual experimentation seriously, others are staunch believers in frequency, others get way into fantasies—but the underlying principle was the same everywhere: both partners should be sexually satisfied as often as possible.
But sex not only keeps the relationship healthy, many readers suggested that they use it to heal their relationships. That when things are a bit frigid between them or that they have some problems going on, a lot of stress, or other issues (i.e., kids), they even go so far as to schedule sexy time for themselves. They say it’s important. And it’s worth it.
A few people even said that when things start to feel stale in the relationship, they agree to have sex every day for a week. Then, as if by magic, by the next week, they feel great again.
Cue the Marvin Gaye tunes:

12. Be practical, and create relationship rules

There is no 50/50 in housecleaning, child rearing, vacation planning, dishwasher emptying, gift buying, dinner making, money making, etc. The sooner everyone accepts that, the happier everyone is. We all have things we like to do and hate to do; we all have things we are good at and not so good at. TALK to your partner about those things when it comes to dividing and conquering all the crap that has to get done in life.
– Liz
Everyone has an image in their mind of how a relationship should work. Both people share responsibilities. Both people manage to finely balance their time together with the time for themselves. Both pursue engaging and invigorating interests on their own and then share the benefits together. Both take turns cleaning the toilet and blowing each other and cooking gourmet lasagna for the extended family at Thanksgiving (although not all at the same time).
Then there’s how relationships actually work.
Messy. Stressful. Miscommunication flying everywhere so that both of you feel as though you’re in a perpetual state of talking to a wall.
The fact is relationships are imperfect, messy affairs. And it’s for the simple reason that they’re comprised of imperfect, messy people—people who want different things at different times in different ways and oh, they forgot to tell you? Well, maybe if you had been listening, asshole.
The common theme of the advice here was “Be pragmatic.” If the wife is a lawyer and spends 50 hours at the office every week, and the husband is an artist and can work from home most days, it makes more sense for him to handle most of the day-to-day parenting duties. If the wife’s standard of cleanliness looks like a Home & Garden catalog, and the husband has gone six months without even noticing the light fixture hanging from the ceiling, then it makes sense that the wife handles more of the home cleaning duties.
It’s economics 101: division of labor makes everyone better off. Figure out what you are each good at, what you each love/hate doing, and then arrange accordingly. My wife loves cleaning (no, seriously), but she hates smelly stuff. So guess who gets dishes and garbage duty? Me. Because I don’t give a fuck. I’ll eat off the same plate seven times in a row. I couldn’t smell a dead rat even if it was sleeping under my pillow. I’ll toss garbage around all day. Here honey, let me get that for you.
On top of that, many couples suggested laying out rules for the relationship. This sounds cheesy, but ultimately, it’s practical. To what degree will you share finances? How much debt will be taken on or paid off? How much can each person spend without consulting the other? What purchases should be done together or do you trust each other to do separately? How do you decide which vacations to go on?
Have meetings about this stuff. Sure, it’s not sexy or cool, but it needs to get done. You’re sharing a life together and so you need to plan and account for each person’s needs and resources.
One person even said that she and her husband have “annual reviews” every year. She immediately told me not to laugh, but that she was serious. They have annual reviews where they discuss everything that’s going on in the household that they like and don’t like and what they can do in the coming year to change it. This sort of stuff sounds lame but it’s what keeps couples in touch with what’s going on with each other. And because they always have their fingers on the pulse of each other’s needs, they’re more likely to grow together rather than grow apart.

13. Learn to ride the waves

I have been married for 44 years (4 children, 6 grandchildren). I think the most important thing that I have learned in those years is that the love you feel for each other is constantly changing. Sometimes you feel a deep love and satisfaction, other times you want nothing to do with your spouse; sometimes you laugh together, sometimes you’re screaming at each other. It’s like a roller-coaster ride, ups and downs all the time, but as you stay together long enough the downs become less severe and the ups are more loving and contented. So even if you feel like you could never love your partner any more, that can change, if you give it a chance. I think people give up too soon. You need to be the kind of person that you want your spouse to be. When you do that it makes a world of difference.
– Chris
Out of the hundreds of analogies I saw these past few weeks, one stuck with me. A nurse emailed saying that she used to work with a lot of geriatric patients. And one day she was talking to a man in his late-80s about marriage and why his had lasted so long. The man said something like, “relationships exist as waves, people need to learn how to ride them.” Upon asking him to explain, he said that, like the ocean, there are constant waves of emotion going on within a relationship, ups and downs—some waves last for hours, some last for months or even years. The key is understanding that few of those waves have anything to do with the quality of the relationship—people lose jobs, family members die, couples relocate, switch careers, make a lot of money, lose a lot of money. Your job as a committed partner is to simply ride the waves with the person you love, regardless of where they go. Because ultimately, none of these waves last. And you simply end up with each other.
Two years ago, I suddenly began resenting my wife for any number of reasons. I felt as if we were floating along, doing a great job of co-existing and co-parenting, but not sustaining a real connection. It deteriorated to the point that I considered separating from her; however, whenever I gave the matter intense thought, I could not pinpoint a single issue that was a deal breaker. I knew her to be an amazing person, mother, and friend. I bit my tongue a lot and held out hope that the malaise would pass as suddenly as it had arrived. Fortunately, it did and I love her more than ever. So the final bit of wisdom is to afford your spouse the benefit of the doubt. If you have been happy for such a long period, that is the case for good reason. Be patient and focus on the many aspects of her that still exist that caused you to fall in love in the first place.
– Kevin
I’d like to take a moment to thank all of the readers who took the time to write something and send it to me. As always, it was humbling to see all of the wisdom and life experience out there. There were many, many, many excellent responses, with kind, heartfelt advice. It was hard to choose the ones that ended up here, and in many cases, I could have put a dozen different quotes that said almost the exact same thing.
Exercises like this always amaze me because when you ask thousands of people for advice on something, you expect to receive thousands of different answers. But in both cases now, the vast majority of the advice has largely been the same. It shows you how similar we really are. And how no matter how bad things may get, we are never as alone as we think.
I would end this by summarizing the advice in one tidy section. But once again, a reader named Margo did it far better than I ever could. So we’ll end with Margo:
You can work through anything as long as you are not destroying yourself or each other. That means emotionally, physically, financially, or spiritually. Make nothing off limits to discuss. Never shame or mock each other for the things you do that make you happy. Write down why you fell in love and read it every year on your anniversary (or more often). Write love letters to each other often. Make each other first. When kids arrive, it will be easy to fall into a frenzy of making them the only focus of your life…do not forget the love that produced them. You must keep that love alive and strong to feed them love. Spouse comes first. Each of you will continue to grow. Bring the other one with you. Be the one that welcomes that growth. Don’t think that the other one will hold the relationship together. Both of you should assume it’s up to you so that you are both working on it. Be passionate about cleaning house, preparing meals, and taking care of your home. This is required of everyone daily, make it fun and happy and do it together. Do not complain about your partner to anyone. Love them for who they are. Make love even when you are not in the mood. Trust each other. Give each other the benefit of the doubt always. Be transparent. Have nothing to hide. Be proud of each other. Have a life outside of each other, but share it through conversation. Pamper and adore each other. Go to counseling now before you need it so that you are both open to working on the relationship together. Disagree with respect to each other’s feelings. Be open to change and accepting of differences. Print this and refer to it daily.