Money To Live

March 25, 2009

Beyond the standard goal setting advice

Filed under: Uncategorized — by moneytolive @ 2:44 pm

Trent at The Simple Dollar wrote “A Step-By-Step Guide to Making Big Goals Achievable.” He gives the standard goal-setting advice:

  • define the goal clearly
  • break it down into big steps
  • set “microgoals” with a shorter time frame (1 day to 1 week)
  • set aside time every week

This is the standard advice that you’ll find in most literature about goals. It absolutely works, but at the same time, the advice is completely generic, and most people do not follow it.

I think most people do not follow through with this framework because it is vague. I have some more advice about goal setting that fits into this framework and, hopefully, makes the parts about breaking the goal into manageable pieces a little easier.

Identify Action Verbs
The GTD take on organization is to identify “next actions” which always have an action verb. Using action verbs in goal setting is pretty natural for most people. If you get stuck figuring out how to get to the end goal, though, just think about action verbs.

Identify People
A different (and complementary) approach to goal setting comes from Keith Ferrazzi (author of  _Never Eat Lunch Alone_ ). Instead of (or rather, in addition to) identifying all the verbs associated with the goal, identify the people you should talk to (and who might be able to help you) about the goal.

Identifying people to reach your goal makes  a lot of sense when looking for a job, since you are more likely to find a job through networking than through If you are interested in a new career, identify people you know in that career to get advice, and identify people who might be able to help you land a job.

Set “low stakes” deadlines
In school and at jobs, there are “high stakes,” such as when a report or big project is due. When facing an important deadline, I make low stakes mini-deadlines for myself. With the low stakes deadline, I still need to be accountable to someone, which ties in with choosing people to help reach a goal.

For example, when writing my dissertation

  • I updated my webpage daily with the total number of pages that I had written. Family, friends, and classmates congratulated me whenever I made a lot of progress (and they noticed when I did not get much done for a few days).
  • Every week or two I made an appointment at the writing center. I did not need a perfect chapter to take into the writing center, but I needed at least a good outline of a chapter in order to make it a productive meeting. Since I was only seeing another student, mistakes and typos were ok. The regular appointments ensured that I was writing consistently, and I had plenty of time for revisions.

For applying for jobs, low stakes deadlines include

  • Practicing interviewing with a friend.
  • Setting up and conducting an informational interview.
  • Making a new job application every day.

March 18, 2009

I am enjoying your tax dollars

Filed under: Uncategorized — by moneytolive @ 5:00 am

While some family is visiting this week, I am playing “tourist” in DC and am enjoying your and my tax dollars.

I learned a lot about our nation and the world while touristing in DC:

* Our tax dollars do not directly support the National Cathedral, which is the informal name for the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

March 4, 2009

Philanthropy and the Twilight Saga

Filed under: Uncategorized — by moneytolive @ 5:00 am

After numerous recommendations – ranging from a 16-year-old friend who cried at the novels, to a leading economist, who did not feed his children because he was so distracted by the first in the series – I decided to read the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer.

The plot: Bella, an average and ordinary girl who never went on a date before, falls in love with a handsome vampire, Edward. She spends lots of time with him and his family, and they have many adventures together. Did I mention that Edward is handsome?

Overall, I enjoyed the series. My biggest complaint is that I do not want Bella to be a role model for young girls. She complains that math is boring and hard. She is good at biology but plays it down so as not to make a (possibly less intelligent) boy feel uncomfortable. She is only an interesting person when she is not in the presence of her boyfriend Edward. Other parts of the book are not so offensive to a feminist – Edward’s sister is better at fixing cars than he is. Oh, but did I mention that Edward has gorgeous eyes? Meyer tackles the issue of marrying straight out of high school. Bella’s parents married and divorced very young; their choices affect Bella’s life as she grows up.

Edward has a vampire sister who can “sort of” see the future. The vampire family capitalizes on this special power to amass a small fortune through the stock market. Did I mention Edward’s gorgeous hair? The vampires mostly spend the money on ridiculously expensive cars and clothing. The only time philanthropy is mentioned is when it leads to personal gain (I will not say how because I do not want to reveal or event hint at any plot points).

Edward’s family is considered more “enlightened” (my word) than other vampires because they do not harm humans. One of the vampires is even a medical doctor. Based on everything Meyer wrote about the vampire family, I am very surprised that they do not donate lots of money to charity. The vampire family is careful not to draw attention to themselves, and donating millions of dollars would certainly do that. With everything else they are able to do, though, I bet they would figure out a way to give the money away truly anonymously. Did I mention that Edward is breathtakingly handsome and perfect in every way?

Meyer raises this question:
If you care deeply about humanity and have virtually limitless access to money, what is the best course of action? Her answer, become a doctor and drive a fast car, does not resonate with me.

I have a few other ideas

  • Make vaccines, food, effective birth control, and education available for all
  • Fund science research, particularly in crop production and clean energy generation

If you were an enlightened vampire who cares about humanity and has lots of money, what would you do?

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