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How To Be A Positive Person

My wife and I were talking about optimism and being positive. Being optimistic is expecting the best outcome. Being positive is how we can choose to live. I have a bit of work to do on the latter. I googled on how to become a positive person. Lots of advice out there on the web. However, I decided to ask an expert, my wife. And she came up with most of the major themes that I found on the web.

Positive thoughts and positive words. “I can”, “I will” rather than “I can’t”, “I won’t”.

Smile. The act of smiling forces the body to respond accordingly.

Look for the positive. Keep negativity on the boundary. Keep company with positive people. Read and listen to encouraging messages.

Pray. Some would advocate meditation. Regardless, this simple act of faith helps to reduce the stress and tension of everyday life.

Eat well. Nourishing, healthy food promotes a positive sense of well being.

Exercise. Raising the heart rate also promotes a positive sense of well being.

Simplify. The ability to maintain order and a sense of being in control reduces stress and increases well being.

To which I might add: remember rule number six.

Telemarketing

Telemarketers. I admit that I do struggle with them. I would say that the number of telemarketing calls we receive at home seems much higher than the number of calls we receive from people we know. They come in waves: Windows and Doors, Carpet Cleaners, Duct Cleaners, Charitable Organizations, Credit Card Companies, Political Parties, Timeshare Vacation Sales, Newspapers and on and on. Caller ID is of little use because most of them do not register a name, only a number. So we generally respond to the calls.

There are some evenings when the calls arrive one after another. Usually between 6 and 7pm.

Two nights back, I was going through some plans with my wife in my home office. There were a number of interruptions making it difficult to stay focused on the discussion. When yet another telemarketer called in, I was not all that patient and understanding.

Ring, ring, ring.

Another call. And no caller ID. I picked up the phone.

“Hello.”?
“Can I speak to Mr. Richard Cleaver?”?
“Yes. What is it that you want?”?

At this point, my tone was direct, not friendly. Whenever a call starts this way, I know that it is a telemarketer.

“Can I speak to Mr. Richard Cleaver?”?
Was she unable to hear me the first time?
“Yes. What is it that you are selling?”?
“Is this Mr. Richard Cleaver?”?
Sigh.
“Yes. THIS IS RICHARD CLEAVER. What do you want?”?
“Please be informed that this call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes and…”?

Why do I care about whether this call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes? Do I need to consult a lawyer to ensure that my interests are protected when telemarketers make contact? What if I do not want the call to be recorded? Do I have a choice? For that matter, I do not want to be called by these folks in the first place. And so I interrupted the script.

“What is the purpose of your call?”? I asked for the third time.

And I received a curious response. Although my tone was direct, it was not harsh or rude. I simply wanted to close the call as quickly as possible.

“Why are you being so aggressive?”?

I was a bit taken aback. A stranger calls my home, uninvited, to pitch a product that I do not need and refuses to tell me the purpose of the call after three requests. And then I am taken to task for being aggressive. On a telephone no less.

Ready. Aim. Fire.

“I only wanted to know the purpose of your call.”? I replied. “And since you are unwilling to tell me, I can only conclude that there is no need to have this conversation. Goodbye.”?

Fine. Point won. But I felt horrible after the call. That was another person, trying to make a living, and I had clearly upset her. Sure, I was frustrated by the seemingly endless series of calls coming into our home from telemarketing firms. And I suppose I was reasonably justified in trying to get to the point quickly.

Later that evening, just before I went to sleep, I thought about the impact I had on that person. I could have handled the call with a lot more grace.

Clutter

I had posted about some of our challenges with clutter. Regardless of how bad our little bit of clutter might seem to me, it is nothing compared to this challenge.

Clutter Part II

I received a surprising amount of email on my first post about clutter. And a number of folks asked me how I managed to keep my analog and digital content organized. Could I offer some tips?

I will give up my trade secrets for managing the flow of paper into our household files. At a high-level, there are typically 3 events associated with incoming paper.

Paper arrives

Most of our paper arrives courtesy of Canada Post. Things like bills, statements, ads. Some paper arrives from other sources. Things like mortgages, wills, receipts. And some paper gets produced. Things like online purchase receipts, spreadsheets, word documents. No shortage of paper.

Paper gets reviewed

There are only two actions taken with paper that comes in to our house: we keep it or we throw it away.  Obviously, certain papers, like bills, will trigger other actions. But in terms of managing paper, I like to keep it simple: do we need to keep it or can we throw it away?

Paper gets processed

If paper is to be thrown away, we ensure that any material that contains personal information gets shredded. My wife is an expert in sorting such material and she seems to have a genuine passion for shredding.

Keeping paper requires a filing system. And here is my secret. Over the years, I have tried numerous approaches to filing paper. The one that works best for me is derived from David Bach. In one of his books, Smart Couples Finish Rich, he has a chapter called Find Your Stuff. This easy to implement system works exceptionally well for most of our filing requirements.

I have a dedicated filing cabinet in my office which I find to be a necessity in keeping our papers organized. You do not need to have one to use his system but it obviously helps.

I have eleven sections in my file cabinet. Each section has a tab and a number of file folders.

The first tab is Bank Accounts. In this section I have file folders for each of our bank accounts. I keep these statements on file for the past two years. Older statements get shredded.

The second tab is Household Expenses. In this section I have file folders to put all of our statements for things like Hydro and Telephone. Anything that is related to running the house. I keep these statements for the past two years. Older statements get shredded.

The third tab is Credit Card Debt. In this section I have file folders for all of our credit cards and I keep the statements on file for two years. Older statements get shredded.

The fourth tab is Liabilities. Here I keep file folders for secured and non-secured debt. Things like a mortgage or personal line of credit. The original agreements are always kept on file. The monthly statements are kept for two years. Older statements get shredded.

The fifth tab is Investments. Here I keep track of all my investment accounts, registered and non-registered. I keep the statements on a much longer time horizon as I like to go back and do analysis on things like rates of return. Five years. Older statements get archived into a Banker’s Box.

The sixth tab is Income Tax. I have file folders for all of the income tax submissions going back seven years. Older files get archived into a Banker’s Box.

The seventh tab is Auto. These files keep information related to our cars including maintenance. The files are kept for as long as we own the car.

Tab number eight is Insurance. Here is where I keep all of our insurance policies: house, life, car. These files are held is long as the policies are in force. Any statements are held for two years. Older statements get shredded.

The ninth tab is Employment. Here I keep all of my relevant employment records: contracts, stock option accounts, benefits, salary statements. I only keep the records for my current employer. Otherwise the files get archived into a Banker’s Box.

The tenth tab is Family Documents. Wills, passports, SIN and health cards are filed here.

The eleventh tab is actually the top drawer of a two-drawer filing cabinet. Here is where I store material that I think needs to be kept. Receipts and warranties for purchases, volunteer activities, anything that does not fit into the first ten tabs yet requires storage. I review them each year to see whether they still need to be kept. Alphabetical order. If a particular file is no longer needed, it gets shredded.

This system has worked amazingly well for our household. When the statements come in, it is generally quick and painless to file them. And we always know where our important documents live.

You can learn more about Bachs’ system by visiting the free resources page on his website here. He will ask you to register to gain access to his free resources. It is free. Look for the section called Get Organized With Our Worksheets. And then load the pdf called Find Your Stuff.

Clutter

My daughter has often teased me that I have a little bit of OCD in my system. I prefer an ordered and minimalist environment. Unfortunately, I also have a propensity to engage in a wide range of activities. Each one brings clutter.

Digital clutter I have, by and large, under control. Which is amazing considering the following: 200 plus emails a day, tens of thousands of digital images, tens of thousands of audio files, blogs, photoblogs, and a half dozen PCs to manage.

Paper clutter is more challenging. I have a pretty good file system at home however the volume of paper that comes into our house is also staggering: snail mail, newspapers, magazines, books, cards, analog images. Sorting, filing and cataloging this material is often a challenge. Books and magazines that I want to keep are dumped into a holding room. Memories in the form of paper items collected from trips, cards from friends, report cards, etc., are tucked away into banker boxes. The cumulative effect, after decades of paper acquisition, is clutter.

Household finances can also get challenging. Managing cash flow, investments, expenditures and acquisitions can be surprisingly complex. At least in our household. Doing well is a blessing. Managing that blessing often seems to require the presence of a dedicated and full-time CFO.

Stuff. Stuff is just out of control. I mean how much stuff does a North American household really need? I do not say this with pride, rather with shame. We have two major holding areas in our house to store stuff. Stuff that is obsolete like old VCRs and old studio gear. Stuff like old computers. Stuff like old furniture. Stuff like paint cans. Leftover construction material. Rugs. Carpets. The list goes on and on.

Our holding areas are so crammed with stuff that we literally are getting stuffed out. We may need a larger space just to store all this stuff. And, from what I see in our neighborhood, we are not alone. At least we have a garage that we can use. Most of our neighbors have so much stuff that they have to use their garages as storage sheds. They park their cars on the driveway.

All of this frustration over clutter. And this from someone who is a highly organized person.

I have been trolling the web and there are numerous sites that focus on strategies for dealing with clutter and improving organization: Unclutterer,  Psychology of Clutter, Zen Habits, I’m An Organizing Junkie, Clutter Control Freak, Disorder2Order.

Frankly, I don’t think the issue for me is with what needs to be done. I am an organizing machine. It is the time and the relative priority to deal with the household clutter. With so many commitments in my own life, dealing with clutter falls way down the list. Which bothers me in a way because I know that there is an emotional reward with getting things simplified in our home.

I do have a couple of weeks coming up over Christmas. Perhaps I might use that time to tackle one of the holding areas. Start the new year with less clutter.

Presentation Tips

I have had a number of folks ask me about my source of inspiration for the presentations I give. I suspect that this is due, in part, to the somewhat novel techniques that I use for my visuals.

Here are some of my sources of inspiration:

No more bullets.

Simple and effective.

Trends.

Remember the basics.

Speak well.

Be prepared.

Learn from the best.

No need to conform.

The Gift of Work

I had gone on a bit of a rant here about the anti-work messages I so often hear at church. I wish that there more teachers like Nancy Ortberg. She gives a wonderful sermon about work here. Scroll down the list of messages and look for the video called “Jesus and Your Job”. A short and powerful message.

Liens and Lottery Winners

We endured several years of living beside the most disruptive and dysfunctional family imaginable. A lottery win got them into the house and financial mismanagement forced them out. Since they have left, we have a transformed neighborhood. A remarkable change.

We learned yesterday that apart from a mortgage, there were liens outstanding on their property when it was sold. No surprise. For those unfamiliar with liens, a lien is a charge on property to satisfy a debt or other obligation.

An owner may agree to place a lien on real property in order to obtain mortgage financing to purchase the property.

A lien on real property may also result from a debt of the property owner that is not directly connected to the ownership of the land. Examples include unpaid taxes.

If a debtor owner fails to pay a debt, and the creditor goes to court and obtains a judgment, the law usually permits the creditor to file that judgment in the land records so that it becomes a lien on the debtor’s real property. The creditor may then be paid by either foreclosing the lien, forcing a sale of the property to satisfy the debt, or waiting until the debtor wishes to sell the property.

If the debtor sells the property without satisfying the lien, the lien isn’t discharged and it may still be satisfied by a sale of the property, even after it’s been sold to a new owner. In most transactions, a bank or other mortgage lender will not provide mortgage financing until all liens on the property have been removed.

A worker or business supplying building materials may have a lien for the construction or improvement of real property.

Our former neighbors had liens across the board, both construction and credit.

I guess the moral of the story is that a lottery win, although a lucky break, doesn’t develop character or potential. And it certainly doesn’t teach you how to manage your money.