Happy Friday!

Image courtesy of Jean-Marc Buytaert

We’ve nearly made it through another week – at least those of us who work conventional hours have. Here are some quick tips and recent observations to celebrate the coming weekend.

Listening is a lost, but crucial art.

Back when he was just a regular NFL quarterback and not the center of a controversy the media hasn’t completely stopped exploiting for ratings, page views, etc to this very day, Colin Kaepernick was in a commercial for some incredibly overpriced noise canceling headphones that involved him easily ignoring very hostile Seahawks fans. At the end, the slogan “hear what you want” is displayed. Much like paying a premium price for very pedestrian headphones, the slogan was rather unproductive.

This week, I had a conversation with a customer that made it painfully clear he had been taking this approach quite literally in numerous conversations we’d had over more than a year. Not only had he missed some fundamental, incredibly important points, but he had apparently been operating under the assumption that what he “didn’t know” (I put that in quotes because I’m still not sure I believe anyone could have every one of the conversations we had and still not know things that were repeated so emphatically, so many different times, in so many different ways) couldn’t hurt him, and that everything would work out in a very advantageous, but tragically impossible way. Based on this wildly inaccurate view, he wanted to make a decision that would likely have cost him tens of thousands of dollars over the remainder of this year and much more in the long run. I like the guy, but the sheer absurdity of what he apparently believed almost made my head explode. It was a visceral moment that forced me to understand that my efforts are simply not accomplishing anything in his case. Anyway, when I informed him of the almost certain consequences of the decision he wanted to make, he immediately changed his mind. But clearly this was the first time he had ever listened when I told him these things and he had managed to walk all the way to the edge of a financial cliff while ignoring me repeating them again and again.

Listening doesn’t always have implications that expensive, but sometimes they can be even more important. How many relationships have broken down because one person stopped listening to what the other was really saying? How many medical mistakes has this caused? How many decisions that affected thousands of people have been made based on faulty or incomplete information as a result? The costs of this phenomenon aren’t even quantifiable. But one thing is certain; we can all do better in life if we go into conversations with the goal of gaining whatever information the other person is trying to share with us first. Not only will we make better, more informed decisions, but relationships will improve. I’m working on improving in this area myself and I recommend everyone do the same!

If you’re buying a greeting card, the dollar store is your friend!

Obviously if you want something to last a while, the dollar store is a questionable choice at best. But if you’re buying a folded piece of paper with canned words on it for the strict purpose of having something to give someone versus not, you’re about to save some money. Rather than paying the ridiculous amount of $3-5 (or more!) for something that will most likely be in the garbage within ten minutes of receipt (multiplied times goodness knows how many per year), you can buy the same damn thing for a buck – or even fifty cents if you choose certain cards! Will this turn your financial situation around on its own? Not likely. But it will save you 80% or more on this particular purchase, which happens to be repeated many times, year after year. And perhaps more importantly, it will help you stay in the mindset of being financially intentional – accomplishing 100% of your goal without spending more money than you have to. This mentality will save you a ton more money if applied to all areas of your financial life.

Game of Thrones is over.

The ending, along with the entire final season, was ever so slightly controversial. I don’t believe in ruining good entertainment for busy people so I’m not going to post my thoughts on it yet. And besides, my opinions are still swimming around upstairs as they form, almost solidify, break down, form again, etc. But rest assured, that post will be coming in the next couple of weeks.

Have a fantastic Friday and a wonderful weekend!

TV Shows I’ve Enjoyed Recently

I don’t watch too much TV but I do enjoy an occasional binge. And since we’ve been running high temperatures in the 50s (also known as leave home ONLY if necessary weather) fairly regularly here recently, I’ve been watching more TV than usual in response. Here are my reviews of a couple of shows I’ve devoured way too quickly and really enjoyed. 

Dynasties (BBC)

Please note that this series is not complete yet so you may want to wait until all the episodes are available if your TV habits mirror mine (watch a ton for a day or two, then none for months). I’m a sucker for nature documentaries, especially when they’re about animals. The BBC does some of the best ones I’ve seen and this is no exception. The narration by Sir David Attenborough (yes, he is THAT good) is excellent, providing insightful explanations of what you’re seeing, dramatic personification, and delightful British flair. For example, Dynasties becomes DINasties and hilarious “Queen’s English” phrasing is sprinkled in liberally. The footage is excellent and in case there were any doubt about how much effort, patience, and commitment went into getting it, that notion is dispelled by the behind the scenes portion near the end of each episode. Entire crews of people are literally spending a year or more of their lives in places like Africa and Antarctica, living as amongst nature as possible to make this happen. Their sacrifice is paying enormous dividends for all of us although I imagine they would reject it being characterized as a sacrifice at all and are probably coming away far richer for their experiences. I highly recommend this series to anyone who wants to learn more about our incredible world and some of its inhabitants, who by the way have enough human qualities to give even the most fervent denier of evolution some pause.

F is for Family – Season 3 (Netflix)

This show is just phenomenal and the fact that I know so few people who watch it is both an indictment of my networking abilities and a fair criticism of society as a whole. Set in the 70s against the backdrop of a middle class neighborhood somewhere on the east coast (I don’t believe an exact location is given and context clues seem inconclusive so perhaps it is an amalgamation of places), the show is a portrayal of American family life at that time from Bill Burr’s perspective that is sometimes funny, occasionally heartwarming, and always brutally honest. It can get extremely dark and that is probably one reason more people don’t watch it. With an “absolutely everyone is full of shit” ethos permeating almost everything that happens, I can easily see this being a little too real for plenty of people, all of whom are in fact full of shit but few of whom are willing to admit it. And please don’t think I’m implying this doesn’t apply to me as well. We are ALL full of shit and the only attribute that separates us is how honest we are about it with ourselves and others.

Not since Moral Orel have I seen a cartoon show that did such an incredible job of reeling the viewer in with unabashed, irreverent hilarity and then barreling deep down the rabbit hole of the dark side of American society and the inner sanctum of the family in particular, in such a remorseless, visceral manner. Morel Orel started with shots at organized Christianity and branched out from there in a fairly exponential manner whereas the social commentary of F is for Family is much broader and pretty much full throttle from the word go.

Along with continuing to develop the plot lines from season two, season three also introduces some new ones, particularly in the form of some new neighbors. This season plumbs slightly deeper than the series has previously, culminating in some very soul crushing moments. As always, some episodes are weaker than others and there were times when I began to wonder if maybe an optimistic moment or two could have provided enough of a respite to prevent total desensitization taking away from appreciation of what the show does best. But it was still an excellent social commentary with plenty of side splitting jokes and I was left feeling that this show is still firing on all cylinders. That will be difficult to maintain with a concept like this one as there are only so many facets of society to deflower and jokes will get stale if repeated but for now, it is still a strong recommend from me to anyone with a strong enough constitution to appreciate the beauty in the ugliness of something as frank as this.