Positive Thinking – Part 3: What to Know Before Purchasing a Self-Help Course

money back guarantee

money back guarantee (Photo credit: lonely radio)

This article is NOT an advertisement for a positive thinking course.  I will not post a link that will bring you to a website selling you such a program.  I am not out to sell anything: just give you good advice and save you money and dismay as well.

Forms of Self-Help Programs

As you know, there are lots of self-help systems and books out there that promise a great transformation in your life by adopting positive thinking techniques.  Such courses promise success in your career, business, wealth, marriage, and overall happiness.

You’ll see them advertised in infomercials and hear testimonies of how people improved their lives by this course.  These infomercials are typically long and created to draw and retain you attention while playing on your conscience that by not trying their program, you’re throwing away a great opportunity.  Either you purchase their course or just go on living the fruitless life you’re living now.  Such courses are advertised indirectly through luring web advertisements that promise overnight changes for little or no money.

Hence, all you need to do is complete “our” course and BAM, you’re a brand-new person.  Right?  I would not make such an assumption!

On the flip side, I’m not saying they’re full of bogus information.  Every course touches down on good points such as making affirmations and adapting positive “self talk.”  However, before you can actually benefit from one of them, you must be willing to dedicate time for listening and put forth great effort on your behalf.

Meditation, Yoga, and Religion

There are other commercially sold techniques to promote positive thinking.  Some are based on meditation, yoga, or other exercise programs.  People will push religious materials at you as they promise overnight changes in your life.  They will ask you to read the Bible on a daily basis, attend weekly church services or studies, and preach the word to everyone you know, converting them to “born again Christians.”  I am not bashing religion, but it comes with no guarantees.  In fact, most of us naturally shun religion and its practices because while growing up we were conditioned to do so.  I suggest one reads the book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner.  It is widely available wherever books are available to the public.

These Courses Are Financial Traps

Frankly, they’re all just a waste of time and money, even the cheap ones.  Take it from me, I tried some when I was young and naïve and my life hasn’t changed.

Most of them come in the form of audio books with numerous tapes or CDs plus workbooks and DVDs.  Seeing their complete self-help kits on TV or on the web will make you think, if that amount of media is necessary to teach positive thinking, then this program has to be highly effective.

Some advertisements will display the price of their course on the TV screen.  If they don’t, this should raise a red flag that a bull can spot from a mile away.  Others will disclose a flat rate of say $99.  Then they’ll follow up with a prompt like: “Call in the next 10 minutes (or respond online by a certain date) and we’ll slash the price by 50%.  Next, they’ll offer to add in free supplements as additional books, CDs or DVDs “Absolutely Free!”

Don’t forget the “100% satisfaction money-back guarantee.”  This leaves most gullible consumers with the conclusion: “What have I got to lose?  I can always get my money back if I don’t like it!  I’ll try it.”

The trouble with money-back guarantees is they are for a limited time only and require a seemingly great amount of effort to act on them.  Not only is there the repackaging and sending the content back, some fear that their return will be rejected.  Still, some say they’ll try the course thoroughly but don’t or forget how long the trial period is good for.  With all the potential problems, many just keep the course and rarely, if ever use it.

So you call to order the $99 course mentioned above, thinking you’ll get it for $49 (plus taxes).  Right?  Wrong!   Once they got you on the line, they’ll make you feel like you’re doing a mighty great deed by trying their program and your life from this moment on is on the up and up.

Next thing you know, they’re making additional recommendations to supplement your course as in subscriptions to magazines, newsletters, listings of seminars to attend, etc.  Without them, the course won’t be fully effective.  If you’re not hard-nose enough to say “no” a hundred times or hang up, your cost of $49 turns into say $249.  Ouch!  You hang up the phone and ask yourself resentfully, “What the hell did I just do?”

Their sales team reps pray on people who don’t realize that all this information is already available at their local library.

Others are free local seminars or perhaps, webinars.  Though they are seemingly free, just wait until you get your foot into their door.  You’ll sit through a 3-hour talk session just to find out it ended with a recommendation to buy their program.  If you don’t buy it, you’ve invested 3 hours of sitting and listening-all for nothing.  Next thing you find out, the price of the program is astronomically high.  What do you do, whip out a “piece of plastic” (credit card) or just walk out.  I recommend the latter.

Why Positive-Thinking Courses Don’t Work

I’m not saying you can’t succeed at one of these programs.  They do offer great pieces of advice that you may never think of yourself.  Still, you must devote a lot of time and effort on your behalf to make their info work for you.  If you don’t do the work, you don’t reap the results.

However few people ever succeed for the following reasons:

  • We expect instant results: If we don’t see positive changes, right away we become impatient and abandon the program.   Although the advertisements profusely promised overnight changes, for few if any individuals, such changes come about.  What we don’t realize is that these changes happen over time.
  • The time commitment:  This may mean lying in bed for a few hours a day or meditating in a quiet place at home for 15 or 30 minute sessions where you won’t to be disturbed by the ringing of the phone, crying babies, the doorbell, etc.  You must lie down, close your eyes, breathe deeply, follow along with their sessions, and hope your daughter doesn’t suddenly barge in on you.  For most of us, our busy lives are much too busy to take on new activities.
  • Awkward activities:  For example, you may have to do therapeutic talk sessions with others.  This may require interacting with family, friends, co-workers, relatives, etc, that’s if you know very many people to begin with.  Those you do know are always busy, unwilling to change, or don’t believe in self-help programs period.  Most likely, you’ve had unpleasant experiences with family members and relatives which caused you guilt or remorse.  Thus, these people are hard to approach and likely to refuse to participate.  Friends and casual acquaintances are not willing to participate in such activities unless maybe you can sweet talk them into doing so.  Some may resent you for asking and think of you as another solicitor.  This just might damage a few relationships.
  • Self-consciousness:  Many of us naturally shun infomercials and the products they sell.  Others are strongly convinced that they are overpriced garbage.  Therefore, the individual who purchases the course must establish a mutual agreement with their significant other and others they respect.  They must agree that purchasing the course is financially feasible and well worth it and doing the activities will not interfere with others in the household.  Finally, the course will suggest its trainees to post notes and pictures around the house as reminders of keeping certain things in mind throughout the day.  These notes say things like “I am just as worthy as anyone else” or “Nothing in my past can affect me today”, etc.  For some, posting notes is not their style, especially for immaculate people.  Others may worry about what household members or visitors would think if they saw them.  For the self-conscious, such a practice may not be an option.
  • Unresolved emotional issues:  People who turn to these programs for help sometimes have unaddressed and unwanted emotions.  Some have pent up feelings of guilt or inadequacy that stems from rejection, failures, or mistakes, etc.  Feelings of anxiety, guilt, or worry have a nasty way of hanging on for years and cannot be dismissed at one’s free will.  Others suffer from depression, mood disorders, or adverse behavioral conditions that may stem from a natural chemical imbalance.  Self-improvement courses only make positive suggestions, but do not offer psychiatric advice.  Therefore, those with emotional problems must successfully undergo professional counseling before attempting to complete the course.  Nobody can sell you a solution to your emotional problems.  If you fail to seek treatment, your feelings will only hamper your progress in the course.
  • Change in attitude:  Attitude is essential in success, even if you’re not affected by any of the previous conditions.  Some may just get sick of the course after awhile or form opposing beliefs towards its content.  Such people are likely to make excuses as why it’s not feasible to complete the course or that they’re not the type of person it was intended for.  They will just abandon it and continue to live as they always have.

If you are absolutely serious about developing positive thinking habits, by all means go for it.  Rather than purchasing an online or TV course, resort to resources that offer free or low cost books or audio books on the subject.  This may be your local library or online.  If you feel you need professional help, don’t refrain from getting it.  Worst of all, don’t deny it.  If you have negative emotions pent up inside or lack of confidence, seek advice on how to deal with or remove them.  Research forums or other venues of information on those who have the same problems you have.  You may be surprised at what you find out.

Remember, money can’t buy you happiness.  Self-improvement courses are often overpriced and sold for profit only.  Not only are you paying for the materials, but you’re paying the overhead in producing and selling them.  That includes the costs of renting rooms in convention centers, traveling expenses incurred by the reps, TV advertising time, professional speakers, and all other affiliated prices.

All the publishers really care about is turning a profit-not how much (or little) their program benefits you. Pitching in for these expenses will never improve your outlook on life.  Why not check out a book on positive thinking at the library where you can read it for free?

Please feel free to comment on this blog.  If I said anything incorrectly or left something out, please let me know.  Genuine comments only please.


Legally Blind – Part 2: Four Eyes

The expression "four eyes" may have come from the thick black-framed glasses.

The expression “four eyes” may have come from the thick black-framed glasses.

This is continuation of my post: Legally Blind – Part 1: How It Affects Me  If you haven’t read it yet, please do, before reading this post.

Hey There “Four Eyes

As long as grade schools existed, there would always be one kid out of so many that had to wear thick-framed glasses all of the time. As you all know, these were the “four eyes.”  Many of them got picked on because they wore stupid looking, heavy framed glasses.  Yes indeed, I was one of them.  Up to 7th grade, I wore plastic rimmed glasses all the time.  I can still picture the black-rimmed glasses that some wore back in the 1960s.

Every elementary and high school has 3 types of kids: 1) the “different” kids – those with some mental or physical defect, 2) the bullies, and 3) the more fortunate, innocent, normal kids.  As you may have guessed, I fell into the first category.  My constantly moving eyes and my near-sightedness not only limited my vision, but caused me to develop weird mannerisms that made me seem inferior to others.  Such mannerisms were in the way I walked, the way I had to hold reading materials close to my face, and the way I had to get extremely close to objects (such as electronics) to read them.  Also, I need to turn small printed materials sideways to decipher the tiny printed alphanumeric characters.

I was teased a lot and thought of as being mentally retarded.  Kids would ask me things like “How many fingers am I holding up?”  I could always tell them outright.  Some outright avoided me because I was different and others were sarcastic and mean.  Just by seeing me walk, kids who didn’t know me were sarcastic and told me to watch where I was going.

While in high school, anonymous people would call up my mother and tell her that I definitely needed a seeing-eye dog.  This astounded her.  She could never understand how people could exaggerate my visual condition.  The SSDBVI constantly called us and sent me mail.  She felt they were “making a mountain out of a molehill”, but on the flip side, between all 8 schools in our district, there were only very few of us “blind” students, so this agency had to do keep busy with us to continue operating.

During my high-school years, I was one of those kids that stood out from the rest in my own ways.  People would razz or question me about my eyesight.  They were not so cruel, but became casual acquaintances.  I wonder if my visual impairment in an odd way attracted their attention towards me.  Some would call me Cylon after the Battlestar Galactica TV series while others called me “stigmite.”  I took no offense to these names.  In fact I got a charge out of them.

Because of my vision, sometimes I fell into the “disabled” group.  Com-on, I’m not disabled, I can walk and get around like everyone else.  The word “disabled” was degrading and by no means wanted to be a part of that group.  I wouldn’t need special services if only I was granted with a little luck and a secure job.

How My Visual Impairment Became My Biggest Asset

Even though I got teased and hassled a lot, couldn’t do certain things others could, and had a hard time finding a decent job, my visual impairment which was once a liability, turned into a great asset.

In the past decade, I had trouble finding and holding jobs.  Still, I have one tool at my aid: a document that states I was declared legally blind in November of 1968.  Whoa, I was only six years old then.  Whenever I apply for various services, I just send them a copy of it and surely be accepted.

Currently, I live on Social Security Disability because of my (legal) blindness.  I would rather be able to work than to live off federal income.  But due to the bad economy and the recessions we’ve been through, it is best that I receive this.

Still there are certain restrictions with my benefits.  Although I am allowed to work to supplement my income, I cannot make more than $1700 a month.  If I did, my benefits may be reduced or terminated.  Also, in today’s job market, jobs are hard to find and employers are more apt to let workers go with little or no warning, even for the pettiest reasons.  Hence, job security is as poor as it’s ever been.  I just don’t dare to live without my SSI benefits.  Now, jobs around my community are few and far in between, or in neighboring towns 30 miles away.

I feel sorry for unemployed individuals and couples without a disability.  Their only options are to collect unemployment (if they’re eligible) or other public assistance (if they can).  Many of them have been forced out of their homes and some are homeless.  Without my benefits, I would be homeless too.

Still, the greatest benefit of being visually impaired is when people comment that I’ve done a lot for someone that can’t see well.  I’ve had a number of people tell me that.  For one thing, I owned and maintained a home in Minneapolis for 18 years, doing a countless number of repairs myself.  I did electrical wiring, plumbing repairs, painting, etc.  I strive to be as independent as possible and rarely ask for the help of others.  Being recognized for my accomplishments makes me feel good.

Today, I’m a 50-year old bachelor who co-owns a home with my brother.  Because of my home repair experience, he relies on me to do the repairs.  I am confident that our house will be well-maintained and suit us well into the next decade.

Legally Blind – Part 1: How It Affects Me

English: Reading glasses. ‪中文(繁體)‬: 老花眼鏡

English: Reading glasses. ‪中文(繁體)‬: 老花眼鏡 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Legally, I am classified as being blind, though I really am not. I can see everything around me clearly, but when it comes to small print or details, I use a heavy magnifying pair of reading glasses. However, there are times when I attempt to read without using my glasses, because I’m too lazy to put them on. Still, I don’t use a cane, read Braille and I sure don’t need a seeing-eye dog.

Because this story is so long, I broke it up into two posts.

My Visual Condition

Yes, I’ve been born with my visual condition and it has adversely affected me throughout my life. Not only was I born with astigmatism, but nystagmus (constant, involuntary back and forth movement of the eyeballs) too.

Contact lenses are totally out of the question. After several eye exams, they are unable to provide me with regular glasses to correct my vision. Therefore, I have reading glasses only and should not wear them unless I’m reading. For regular site, they make everything look blurry.

My legal blindness prohibits me from getting a driver’s license. You need to be able to read any sign going at 55 miles per hours, which I could never do.
Over the last three decades I considered laser eye surgery. The thought of having the cornea reshaped in my eyes so my vision can be corrected has sounded really good to me. I was excited about the possibility to drive and land a better job. About 3 or 4 times I’ve seen different specialists, each about 5 years apart, but they all told me the same thing: Your eyes cannot be corrected due to nystagmus. If we did, you would have tunnel vision, that’s if we can get your eyes to stay still.

How It Affects My Life

Most every type of task is tougher for me than for the average person. Operating electronics or machinery (until I’m familiar with them) is difficult and takes me a long time to master. Quite often, I would need to put household or office items together that came in kits (for example, chairs, desks, and shelves). Not only was it hard to read the directions, but to sort out all of the parts in different categories so I would know which parts connected with what pieces. Hence, assembling things took me longer than it might take others.

Sometimes reading is difficult. Reading the classified ads in the newspaper is hard, especially deciphering addresses or phone numbers. The Yellow Pages were just as bad. Thanks to the internet, I rarely have to read these things anymore, and if I do, I use heavy magnifying glasses.

Counting money can be difficult for me. I always had difficulties trying to tell nickels and quarters apart. Later I found out that other people had that problem too. Now I can do that without any problem. Sometimes, I have to hold ten, twenty, fifty, or one-hundred dollar bills up close to make sure I’m giving cashiers the correct amount of money.

I grew up in a foster family who liked to fish. Every weekend we would go up to the cabin and spend time out on the lake or down at the canal fishing off shore. I used to hate fishing with a passion. Not only did I rarely catch anything, but I would have a difficult time putting the bait on the hook. Putting on sinkers and bobbers was very hard for me. Stringing a leader onto the end of the line was almost impossible. Often, my fishing line would become tangled and straightening out the mess was extremely impossible. I would get so frustrated that I would scream and curse to the top of my lungs.

To this day, I still hate fishing, unless there are others along willing to help me and we are at a lake that actually has fish in it.

Indeed, I did look quite awkward when handling my fishing pole. I would hold the objects an inch away from my eyes and squint as I tried to put them together. Usually, I would succeed, but only after several minutes or struggling. No doubt, I must have looked pretty foolish.

While in senior high, I received materials from the State Services for the Disabled and Blind and Visually Impaired (SSDBVI) in Minnesota. I didn’t have to apply for them, I just received them automatically. This included a cassette player with audio books, called talking books. They would send me a large print catalog and I would check some of them out. It was just like a standard library including books containing adult language. They also tried to push Braille materials my way, but I didn’t need Braille, nor had sensitive fingers to read it anyway.

All of my adult life I have been unable to drive. I’ve had to depend on others to drive me places, unless there was public transportation handy. Still, I can ride a bike without any problem, especially when I know the area well. Thus, I aim to be as independent as possible and hate having to bother people for rides.

Riding in a car with someone can be extremely difficult. This is true when we both are going somewhere we never been before. For me, seeing most street signs is impossible. Even though I bring a pair of binoculars along, they’re not powerful enough for me to see the street signs. As we approach them, I would struggle to focus in on them and by the time I was close enough, we had already whipped past them.

I would feel so helpless when trying to help the driver find his/her way to our destination. Fortunately, those I ride with are understanding. Still, I can read road maps with the aid of a heavy magnifying glass plus the help of my reading glasses. It just takes me half a minute to put on my glasses, grab the map, and fetch the magnifying glass.

For more, see next post.

Positive Thinking – Part 2: Accepting Things We Can’t Control

2012 Behaviour Matrix copy

2012 Behaviour Matrix copy (Photo credit: Robin Hutton)

No matter what happens, you were not born to have an unhappy life.  After all, you have superb qualities and good intentions.  You strive to be as independent as possible and avoid being burdensome to those around you.  You don’t intend to hurt or cheat others.  In fact, you like to help others out whenever possible.  However, you must put yourself first and look out for your own survival.  If all these things I mentioned about you are true, you have more self-worth than you realize.

All the good things that happened to us or we have done become eventually become invisible or overshadowed by the bad.  It’s like they’re hiding peacefully in the background, never making a sound.  On the other hand, the bad things we have done or have happened dart out, shout at us, or just stick out like sore thumbs.  Hence, all we see is the bad and rarely, if ever, the good.

Dealing With Things We Cannot Control

Still, we must learn to accept things we have limited or no control over as:

  1. News events as wars, poverty, or crime.
  2. Environmental problems as pollution or global warming.
  3. Taxes.
  4. Unfavorable economic conditions.
  5. Societal changes or behavior.
  6. Bad weather and natural disasters.
  7. Actions or behavior of others.
  8. Health problems or ailments.
  9. Job-related circumstances.
  10.  Laws, rules, or regulations.
  11. Accidents, mishaps, or disasters.
  12. Bodily flaws
  13. Failures or defeats.
  14. Wealth
  15. Financial setbacks
  16. Depreciation of our possessions.
  17. Personal weaknesses or faults.
  18. Bad luck.
  19. Events that don’t go as planned.
  20.  Unwanted emotions

Hopefully, these 20 things I mentioned cover everything.  If I left anything out, please let me know.

We must not let these unfavorable circumstances affect our self-esteem or happiness.  There is no way we can fault ourselves over things we cannot control.  If something bad happens, if it doesn’t affect you directly, accept it as it is.  If it does, find a way around it.  Whatever happens, your fate and ego should remain unaffected.

You’re Only Human

Another thing to remember: you’re only human!  As humans, we’re SUPPOSED to make mistakes.  No matter how hard we try to be perfect, we never will.  In God’s eyes, we are humans, or just another species of animals and all animals have natural flaws.

Sure, our modern-day society conditions us not to make mistakes or they will cost us big time.  Unfortunately, the damage done by our mistakes cannot always be reversed so we must learn to live with it.  This is especially true if we say or do things that hurt others.  All we can do is try to button things back up the best we can as we bring the plaintiff back to status quo, and pretend the mishap never occurred.  In most cases, things are never 100% as good as before the unfortunate event.

Likewise, we all have weaknesses and faults.  Some of them can be corrected by simple changes in habits, but others require drastic measures that we may be uncomfortable in undergoing.  It’s not always easy to admit we’re wrong or to face our fears so we don’t always attempt to do so.

Finally, fatigue, anxiety, or boredom gets the best of us at times.  We also let our responsibilities in life overcome us.   Some nights we cannot sleep and some days we become tired at work or during our daily chores.  When one or all of these things happen, we naturally tend to neglect things, compromise our job performance, or commit selfish acts.  We’re only human.

At the same time, we turn to indulge in harmful substances as cigarettes or caffeine-based beverages to get rid of these unwanted feelings.  Some of us fool around when we should be working while others take extended breaks.  I’m not knocking people for doing these things, because I’ve done them myself (except for smoking).  Although such behavior is not good for our health or well-being and is generally coined as improper, we just can’t help that.  We’re only human.

Boredom is natural and a hindrance in our lives.  When we become bored or consumed in some personal matter, we find it hard to focus and pay attention.  This makes it hard to listen and perform as we should.  In some instances, we go out and shop or engage in some other form of entertainment just to cure our boredom, but that doesn’t always work.  Such behavior can take a toll on our finances.  I’m not condemning this behavior.  After all, we’re only human.

As the saying goes:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Keep this prayer in mind whenever something goes wrong.

Positive Thinking – Part 1: Understanding Negative Thinking


Pessimism (Photo credit: Ankher)

If you read books on self-help or self-improvement or listened to audio tapes, you know they all basically say one thing: positive thinking can change your life.  Such guides stress the importance of being an optimist instead of a pessimist.

It’s Hard to Be an Optimist

Are you kidding?   How can you be an optimist when things seem to be going wrong all the time?  In the past, you tried to plan events (like parties, weddings, or vacations) or hoped to complete tasks (like home repairs, presentations, or college courses) successfully, but it seems that almost always, you encountered a road block somewhere along the way.

Wouldn’t you know it!   Something would have to happen to put a damper on your plans or spirit.  Things happened that prevented you from succeeding in many things you tried to do.  People let you down, the weather turned bad, somehow you weren’t able to get what you needed or some disaster or accident happened that ruined your plans.

Such examples may be planning to take a drive only to discover your car has a flat tire or arranging an outdoor party and when the day comes, it rains.  Speaking of rain, it seems like God is out to rain on your parade.  When things go wrong, you might make inferences as “it’s just my luck” or “I wasn’t meant to do that.”

Maybe it’s just Murphy’s Law.

What Causes Negative Thinking?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to answer that question.  There are a countless number of things that cause you to be a pessimist.  One need not go too far to find them.  Worst of all, mishaps can crush your self-esteem.  You feel like a failure or your life overall is ill-fated.  Some of them may have more dangerous effects than you realize.

You’re not the only one who feels this way.  There are many factors in our lives that promote negative thinking.  Such things may be:

  1. Bad news from others or from the local news.
  2. The bad economy and inflation.
  3. Receiving too much information or advice that is hard to follow.
  4. Increasing demands or stress.
  5. New rules or laws making it harder to obtain the things you need or enjoy.
  6. Difficult people you must deal with daily.
  7. Personal failures.
  8.  Seemingly unfair circumstances that affect you.
  9.  Being treated unkind or unfairly.
  10. Embarrassing, stupid, or regretful things you’ve done.
  11. Disappointment from others.
  12. Bad things happening in your community.
  13. Being affected by the declining morals of our modern society.
  14. Annoying or unhealthy habits of others.
  15. Financial problems.
  16. Doing tasks you hate.
  17. Troubles with loved ones.
  18. Troublesome relationships.
  19. Potential problems.
  20. Deaths to loved ones or pets.
  21. Accidents, mishaps, or disasters.
  22. Dissatisfaction with yourself and your life.
  23. Unfavorable changes in your life.
  24. Being degraded or criticized by others.
  25. Getting robbed, cheated, or assaulted.
  26. Being turned down for loans, grants, or other financing.

There, I’ve named 26 things that cause negative thinking to occur and hopefully I covered all of the bases without overlapping or repeating things.  Anything you can think of should fall under one of these categories.  Hopefully, I didn’t leave anything out.

Add all these things up and you may feel that living a happy life is hopeless.  You strongly believe there is no use in trying to get what you want because you’ll likely face disappointments and unconquerable road blocks.  No matter what you try to do, you firmly believe you’ll live a grim or mediocre life.  You’re thoroughly convinced that whatever you do, nothing will make a difference.  Are you hopelessly doomed?  No.

Launching a Business or Career

Going into business often seems enticing.  The thought of making lots of money while doing what you do best makes you motivated to try. But once you get started, there will be unexpected barriers that make it seem impossible.  Unless you have previous business experience and extensive resources at your disposal, moving onward can seem intimidating.  All at once, you need lots of capital, a team of knowledgeable people, and in depth skill or experience in your trade.  Likewise, you’ll need to know how much competition you’re up against and create a strategy to get around it.

If this is your first time running a business, congratulations for having the courage to launch it.  Most likely, you’re proud that you’ve taken your first step towards financial independence and now you can be your own boss.

Commercially produced self-help guides insinuate that the total difference between succeeding versus failing depends on your mode of thinking: positive or negative.  Of course you must think positive when starting such a venture.  This will motivate you to find ways around potential problems and create better products (or services).  Negative thinking will surely sabotage your business.  As you have little or no hope of succeeding, you’ll lose motivation and eventually give up.

As time goes on, what seemed to be easy at first turned into a barrage of overwhelming demands and high costs.  On top of that, you must become extremely proficient at your trade and learn how to handle problems in the most effective manner.

It seems that you’re now on an ocean in a small boat of your own. Though you’re the captain of your boat, you wonder if you can handle the turbulence of the wind and waves without capsizing your boat.  Quite often you’ll wish you were on a ship controlled by an experienced captain instead.  Fear of sinking can seriously impair your likelihood to survive.

Hence, those who start their own enterprise are positive thinkers-or else they wouldn’t attempt it.  Even though you have high hopes, there are many other variables to consider.  If you’re not skilled or prepared to deal with all the demands, you’re not too likely to succeed.

Attending college is another endeavor that requires positive thinking.  First, you must believe you have the potential to pass all the courses and earn your degree.  Just wanting a high-paying job in a few short years is not enough.  You must have a deep interest in what trade you want to pursue.  Like a business, positive thinking will ensure success in earning your degree, but will not guarantee it.  Failing to earn a degree often makes people feel worthless and unintelligent.  Hence, dropouts feel they’ll never earn a good income or live the lifestyle they desire.

Being unsuccessful in such ventures can really hurt one’s self-esteem and bring on negative thinking.  Some will make the conclusion that they’re total failures and don’t deserve success.  Everything they try from now on, they’ll only fail at.  How they suppose to adopt habits of positive thinking?

Panhandlers: To Give or Not to Give

English: Panhandler in Oceanside, California.

English: Panhandler in Oceanside, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They’re in most every big city these days: panhandlers. It seems like you can’t go downtown anymore without being greeted by at least one of them.  Needless to say, they degrade our cities and make life a little less pleasant for anyone who chooses to shop downtown.

You can even find them in the suburbs at the top of highway ramps or in parking lot exits.  Some will hold cardboard signs in big black letters.  Those downtown often sit on sidewalks or bridges, many with their heads tucked down between their knees, with signs and/or umbrellas.

Beggars hurt businesses in areas of heavy panhandling, especially shopping malls.  Overall, they can hurt downtown commerce as a whole because innocent shoppers fear they can’t walk the sidewalks or return to their cars without running into a panhandler.

There are different races of these people and of course all of them are usually dressed in dirty, ragged clothes.  These people are often referred to as bums, squatters, the homeless, etc.  You’ll usually hear them use the word “brother.”  Apparently, they’re insinuating that giving money to them is just like giving money to your brother.  Anyone I’ll never see again could never be my brother.

Another common phrase is “God bless you!”  Will God bless me?  I’ve heard it said in church many times: Whatever you give to another, God will give you that same thing 100 times back.  Later I heard that what you give must be a sacrifice to yourself.  Sure, anyone in this world will give you something if it is of no potential value to them.

Should You Give to A Panhandler?

What should you do if someone approaches you and asks for a small amount of money?  Should you give it to them or not?  Do they really need money or are they just putting on an act?  That all depends on how you view this particular person and the way they present themselves.  Once they receive money, many beggars slip into alleyways and buy drugs.  Even the dealers know that certain loyal customers are not homeless.

There are genuine panhandlers and there are scammers.   The genuine ones of course are homeless and absolutely need money to eat.  The scammers more likely aren’t homeless, but are looking for cash to buy booze or drugs or simply an extra income.  Usually, they will dress in ragged, dirty clothing to convince you that they are genuine.  Others do it just to see how much they can make as a second income.  On a bad day, successful ones make at least $20 while on good days, around $300.

I don’t like giving money to them unless they absolutely need it.  I’ve helped a number of them but then again, walked away from many others.  Once I handed them money, my feelings of being a good Samaritan turned into feelings of self-consciousness.  It was then I felt they played me for a chump.  Then I realize that they only do it because they know people will give them money.  Most of all, I hate the feeling of apathy most of them radiate.

Panhandlers often try to play on one’s conscience.  Some act really friendly as a potentially good acquaintance and others may try to make you feel sorry for them by making up some long story about how rough things are.  Once you’re approached by one, you are in a situation where you must think on your toes.  If you’re absolutely ruthless and maybe mean, you’ll have the gull to walk away.  However, if you’re kind and empathetic towards homeless people, you’re likely to give.  For those on the fence, walking away from one may make them feel guilty or selfish.

How do you know if one is genuine or not?  Usually, the real beggars look rather old and haggardly.  These people usually look real soiled and have wrinkled faces and long beards.  It’s best to stay away from clean-cut beggars, unless, perhaps they’re stranded somewhere and can’t get home without some money.  If you’re still unsure, it is best to just walk away or ignore them.

If you find that difficult, you can start by having a short conversation with them. You might ask questions like:

What do you need the money for?

Are you homeless?

How long have you been homeless?

Have you tried going to a homeless shelter?

Have you tried looking for work?

You need not get nosy, but if you can make them talk for a few minutes, you can find out more things about them.  However, they are likely to lie to make you feel sorry for them and become inclined to give.  Yet, others may not be good liars.  If one you chat with seems to run out of things to say or just walk away, more likely they’re a scammer.

Never make racial remarks to them or stereotype their mode of living.  Not all beggars are black.

I’ve met a few downright, not-so-clever scammers.  Some would try lines like “My car is on fire” but don’t act like it really is.  In fact I heard a smart-ass say this out loud on a bus and nobody responded.  Just by the tone of his voice I could tell that he wanted to see who would respond out of stupidity.    Maybe I should have put him on the spot by saying, “Oh yeah? Show me your burning car!”  Like hell their car is burning, it really doesn’t exist.

Where to Give

I’ll say it again, panhandlers beg for money mostly because they know there’s a very good chance that someone will give them some.  In the long run, giving money to them will never really help them.  You’re just helping them in supporting their squalor lifestyle and bad habits.  It’s just like helping someone live a lie.

If you truly have a heart and a chunk of money to spaer, give to a local Union Gospel Mission or homeless shelter.  Most cities have food shelves and charities that accept used clothing and other household goods, like the Salvation Army.  Especially around Christmas time, many charities as The Angel Tree advertise their services as malls have bell ringers who collect money in red pans.  Find out where these agencies are in your city and suggest them to each beggar.

By giving to these entities, you know that what you give will go for a good cause-not towards a drug or alcohol addiction.  Most of all, you can feel good about contributing.  You can deduct charitable contributions on your income tax return at the end of the year.

One final note, make sure that the organization you give to is legitimate.  Once you learn about their existence, check them out online to make sure they’re real.  If you’re confronted by a so-called rep, ask for a pamphlet or a business card.  If they have no documentation, don’t give.  Never give them cash outright, but write a check payable to that organization.

Please feel free to comment.  If there’s something I left out or you disagree with me, I would appreciate your input.

Ten Ways to Become a Better Conversationalist

People Who Eat Too Fast

The Damaging Remark

Small Daily Improvements Add Up

Thou Shalt Not Compare

Small Daily Improvements Add Up

"Improve Your Skill-or Learn a New One - ...

“Improve Your Skill-or Learn a New One – In a Vital Army Job-Join the WAC’s Now” – NARA – 514613 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

More than likely you know people who are unhappy with their lives.  It may be they don’t make enough money, they lack motivation, they can’t seem to lose weight, their house is messy, etc.  Such people tend to make excuses rather than changes.  They’ll use phrases as: “if only I….”,  “I can’t seem to….”, “I never…”, “It always seems like….”, “I don’t have the skill…”, and on and on.

Conquering a Problem

What would you like to improve in your life?  How do you go about changing your circumstances?  Start by assessing your problems and brainstorm small ways to fix them.  Think of your troubles as challenges instead of hindrances.  Break each problem down into bite-sized pieces and eliminate one piece at a time.  If only you take the time to think things out, you may surprise yourself with what you come up with.

Remember the movie “What About Bob?”  This was a 1991 comedy starring Bill Murray as Bob Wiley (a psychiatric patient) and Richard Dreyfuss as Dr. Leo Marvin (a New York psychiatrist).  Bob is a kind man who suffers from several phobias.  Leo decides to take a week’s vacation which Bob finds hard to cope with.  Bob follows Leo to his cabin where he forces them to let him stay.  Leo had published a book called “Baby Steps” that explains how to conquer an intimidating problem by approaching it gradually.

I’ll always remember what Dr. Leo said about taking baby steps.  If you have a big problem or need to learn a new skill, but don’t know how to go about it, approach it with baby steps. This advice comes in handy when I need to learn a new computer task.  Keeping up with new technology is not easy unless you face it one step at a time.

Make a Small Improvement Daily

Even if you feel you can’t solve your problems easily, you still can make your life better with each day.  You don’t need a whole lot of luck or a bundle of money, just a little time.  All you need to do is figure out some small way to make your life better.

Following are some troubles people may have and ways they can improve them:

  • Difficulty operating a device –  If you have trouble figuring out your new cell phone, take a few minutes a day to review its manual.  Have friends or family teach you its functions.  Find information about it online.  Aim to learn a new function every few days.
  • Being lonely – If you feel you don’t have enough friends or someone to keep you company, you can become acquainted with one person per day or week.  Look up activities in your community and try a few.  If you like to have a few drinks, go to a saloon and chat with others there.  Find and join a special interest group.
  • Having a messy house -If your house is cluttered with all kinds of stuff and you’re disorganized or embarrassed to have people over, you need not live with it.  Rather than spending one whole day cleaning the entire house, you can spend up to an hour a day cleaning one room at a time.  Monday you can scrub the bathroom, Tuesday, organize an overfilled closet, Wednesday, catch up on the laundry, etc.
  • Learning a new skill -So you have a weakness or a need to learn a new skill, but you don’t know where to begin.  Ask yourself some questions:  Where can I learn to do this?  Who has the talent or knowledge that I can contact?  Where can I find out more about it?  Most of all, don’t forget about the internet.  It is a great source of information for practically anything under the sun.
  • Improving a relationship – It may be a spouse, family member, or a friend who has become angry with you.  Analyze where you went wrong and try to make good on your mistakes.  Do a small good deed for him or her.  Offer to help this person with a problem they have.  Send him/her an article this person would be interested in reading.  Going out of your way and doing one or several favors may help revive your relationship.

Chipping Away at the Stone

So you have a fear, a weakness, or trouble of some kind.  This only proves that you’re human.  Still, some feel that if they can’t resolve the issue immediately, they can’t resolve it at all.   Not true!  Even if it takes you weeks, months, or years, you can remove this problem by slowly trying to resolve it.  Taking a long time is much better than not trying at all.