All posts by Holden

About Holden

Holden is a really groovy guy. By day a Management/IT Consultant, by night a wiper of his children's asses and regular in group fitness classes.

Appeal to your Higher Game

Have you tapped into your higher game? Maybe you aren’t sure if you have or not. Maybe you aren’t exactly clear what “Higher Game” even is.

At its core, “Higher Game” is maintaining the upper hand in social situations. This includes mentally, emotionally and even physically to a certain extent. Higher game is not giving a petty person the shallow satisfaction they seek, whether this be from showing off, posturing, flirting or acting out in some other fashion.

But “Higher Game” is also personal. To have higher game is be self-aware but also aware of the emotional state of those around you. To have higher game is to have class, self-restraint, and self-confidence without being cocky.

When you decide to appeal to your higher game you kill with kindness and win arguments by not having them at all, and instead dismissing them as non-important. You play the long game, a game where instead you beat your opponents by simply living a better life and being prosperous. You ultimately beat your opponents by leaving them in the dust, free yourself of them and instead worrying about yourself.

That isn’t to say you aren’t aware of those who wish you ill will, in fact you are hyper aware of them. Because you are appealing to your higher game, you understand them. But you also know thyself and are free of them.

You brush off your transgressors like sweeping dust from your front porch, quick, effortlessly and with little effort.

Find your higher game.

-Holden

The kid no one likes.

When I was a kid I had a smart mouth. I was a know it all. I was scruffy and from the trailer park, my clothes always reeked of cigarette smoke and I probably had an annoying tendency to ask too many questions or correct people in a rude way.

I didn’t recognize any of this in myself when I was a kid of course. I figured it out later in life from the parents of childhood friends, and usually through snide remarks. The time that hit me most in the gut was when I saw the mother of my best friend growing up at Costco.

I greeted her and she asked if my kids were as smart mouthed as I was as a kid. My first instinct was to say, “Hey, F@#$ off C@#$” but instead I kept it classy and made light of the backhanded remark. I’ve come a long way since my days as a snippy, smart mouthed child.

Another classic moment came when I was a waiter in college and had to serve the older sister of a former friend. She practically refused to look me in the face the entire time. Was I really that bad!?

Yes, totally.

Today, I see history repeat itself. My sister never experienced the awakening or level of self-realization that I did. She thinks asserting your opinion and throwing your weight around at all costs is the only way, otherwise you’re being walked on or used. She has zero tact and approaches all arguments or disagreements like it’s a no holds bar street fight where anything goes, especially hits below the belt or trying to gouge your opponent’s eyes out.

My sister loses jobs frequently and the jobs she holds are usually less than desirable. Her relationships also tend to end up in shambles. Her first husband abandoned the relationship emotionally while her second husband and she have an unhealthy tit-for-tat, cycle of revenge cheating.  In fact, she is so poor at interpersonal communication that if she happened upon this blog post and realized I was referring to her, she’d be quicker to cuss me out than take the criticisms as constructive at any level.

This weekend I let my sister’s daughter, my niece, come stay at our house. Suddenly I see my juvenile self in full force. She’s a sweet girl, just socially retarded. She is a product of her parents- smart mouthed, intrusive, argumentative, and kind of unpleasant to be around.

As a result, I don’t think she has many friends. Actually I don’t think she has ANY friends. I think the poor kid sits at home all the time being tasked as the babysitter of her little half-brothers. When she came over yesterday, her step-father basically drove up, let her off at the curb and drove away.

My wife and I try to mentor her, teach her better habits, be solid parental examples, but a big part of me is just ready to send her off. It’s a personal challenge, a challenge to perhaps break the cycle.

Maybe I can make a difference for her. She’s the only other female grandchild in the family apart from my two. The rest are little boys who destroy at least one thing in my house every time they visit. Bleh, I hate kids that aren’t my own!

But maybe this one, my niece, I’ll take a plug at shaping and mentoring a bit. I wish I’d had someone to do so for me when I was her age.

-Holden

Data Brokers are Selling Your Identity

Do you regularly pay with a credit card at the checkout counter? What about use grocery store loyalty cards? Turns out, all that data is being aggregated and used to track you!

You read right. Statistics gathering companies like Acxiom Corp and LexisNexis, which are called Data Brokers, buy up your personal information from credit card companies and retailers and use it to create a profile on you. Then that data is sold to healthcare providers.

On the surface, this might sound amazing! You doctor can use smart predictive methods to stop you from having a heart attack or developing diabetes before it ever happens.

But wait… doesn’t that also mean that the data could be used against you? Suddenly….

  • Your insurance company can charge you more for being a smoker, drinking more than they are comfortable with, or eating too many Little Debbie cakes.
  • The EPA can decide you consume too much fuel and should be put into a higher tax bracket designated for those who emit too much carbon pollution.
  • When switching insurance companies, you could be charged higher premiums for visiting the doctor too often in the past.
  • A potential employer could buy this data and use your pharmacy loyalty card data to determine that you take too many meds and are prone to taking sick time more than they are comfortable.

Hell, I could speculate all day on the way this data could be used against you. I think the ways it could be used against you easily outnumber the ways it is useful by at least 10 to 1.

It makes one seriously consider going to all cash as much as possible. I’ve always been a tin-foil hat wearing kind of guy in this regard anyway, simply from working in IT and knowing the level of detail that can be surmised about a person based on their web surging and computer usage habits.

For example, I could tell that Jane in HR has gall bladder stones, Mike in accounting feels a burning sensation when he urinates and Michelle in finance just recently got engaged just by the crap they search for in Google. Adding in loyalty card and credit card transaction information simply fills in the pieces of the puzzle. Throw in a little cell phone GPS and metadata and suddenly they know more about us than we do ourselves.

We’re suddenly all under a microscope. Maybe it’s time to go off grid a bit. Switch to cash when possible, leave the cell phone at home or in the car when walking about, start using our browsers in private browsing mode and using browser plugins like Disconnect.

Regain a little bit of ourselves and anonymity.

——

Check out the Bloomberg article on the subject proclaiming HOW GREAT THIS ALL IS!!!!

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-06-26/hospitals-soon-see-donuts-to-cigarette-charges-for-health.html

-Holden

 

The Debt Society

Is it reasonable for a member of the first world, in this day and age to consciously decide they’re never going to retire until they simply can no longer work, then proceed to live a life well beyond their means and completely financed by debt?

Quite a few of my peers do this. Maybe they never actually sat down and did the math or gave much thought to it, but nevertheless, they live life in this manner. And I can only assume that they assume that eventually when they are unable to work anymore, the state will take care of them, or perhaps their children… or who cares! Right now they have a gorgeous home, two shiny cars in the garage and a few big screen TVs on the wall.

Our banker/debtor economy rewards us for this behavior. The entire economy revolves around spending and buying. Economic news reports revolve around consumer spending and retail holidays like Black Friday and Christmas (yes your read right! Christmas is a RETAIL HOLIDAY).

Hell, even our presidents get on TV and makes speeches urging us to get out there and SPEND- SPEND-SPEND! Who here remembers when G.W. Bush sent each of us a nice $300 check for each person in your family, encouraging us to go out and boost Wal-Marts quarterly sales numbers!

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Further, saving for a rainy day is no longer rewarded. The Federal Reserve has made it so easy for banks to obtain lending cash, they no longer pay competitive interest rates on savings deposits, which they would have traditionally relied on for lending out to others and collecting profits on the spread between the rate they paid you and the rate they charged the next guy.

Today, money in the bank is money losing value. The average rate of inflation far exceeds the rates of interest paid on savings deposits. So what is a saver to do?

This is a question I find myself struggling with quite often. I am naturally a very risk adverse guy. Credit card bills and debt cause me to lose sleep at night. But more and more I can’t help but notice that it doesn’t seem to really matter, just so long as I give into the idea of actually ever quitting my job and drifting off into old age on a permanent vacation called retirement- or hell, just file for bankruptcy. There’s no debtors prison in the US, so why not?

It’s all a balancing act of course, but these are the tussles I have with myself from time to time. The best I know to do is stay grounded, remind myself I don’t need all these things, the retail gorge and glutton fest doesn’t have to be for me just because society encourages it at every turn.

More and more often, I’m turning off the TV, watching fewer movies, caring less and less about the world around me. Focusing more on me, my family, and my friends. Places like Costco feels more and more like a circus each time I visit, the retail circus full of retail circus clowns working all week and living for the weekend when they can go spend all the fruits of their time and labor spent toiling away during the long, uneventful weeks where all we do is dream of Friday, and when we get to go shopping again….

-Holden

Kids Complicate Things

Turn on your favorite rap artist’s latest album and you’ll probably hear at least a line or two reminiscing about being an angry little boy whose dad ran out on him and his mother. I grew up around a lot of these broken kids. One kid I knew, who was only 14 at the time and already openly gay and sexually active was one of these fatherless victims, his father gone, his mom in her own drug induced world. That kid didn’t have a kitchen floor. Literally, the floor in the kitchen of his double wide trailer had rotted away.

Other kids I knew had dads who beat the shit out of them. I guess getting the shit beat out of you might be better than abandonment though. Perhaps something is better than nothing at all, contemplating the grand mystery of why you weren’t good enough to stick around for, for an entire lifetime.

I look at my own children today and they break my heart with love. They cause me to well up with such emotion that it almost incites rage in my soul when I hear about kids whose fathers have abused or ran away from them.

Last night I went in my girl’s room and laid with each of them as they slept. I rubbed their backs, buried my nose into their little head of hair and just breathed it in… then kissed each on the cheek and snuck off before I woke them up.

While I laid beside my girls, I thought about something I remembered the economist Steve Levitt, from the Freakanomics podcast, say while discussing the loss of his one year old son many years ago. He said that losing a child never gets easier, it never stops hurting, it continues to hurt every single day. You just learn to cope with it and keep living.

I feel Steve’s pain. I couldn’t stand it. It’s the one challenge I imagine not being able to overcome. It is the one thing that would drive me to the brink- losing one of my children.

So then how does a man walk away from one willfully? How does a father ever willfully harm his child?

It really takes a fucking pathetic puddle of puke to do so.

Having children and loving them deeply and oh so selfishly that it shakes you to the core is to feel the essence of life.

Maybe it’s biological, maybe it’s spiritual. I don’t care. I’m just glad I had the opportunity to feel it.

-Holden

Proof that our Health and Medical Insurance System is FUCKED!

Today I got a bill in mail for when my wife went to the doctor recently due to having the flu. She didn’t go to the Emergency Room mind you, she went to her primary care physician.

The final cost to me out of pocket was only $25. Not bad if you forget that I pay about $400 every month in insurance premiums then my employer picks up another $800 for a total of approx. $1200 a month to insure my family.

But check out the wonderful itemized bill! It’s for almost $400!!!!!

Look closer and you notice the doctors and insurance companies have some nice deals with each other. The doctor discounted the insurer $177 + $82. Yup- $259 (65% of the bill) was “Wrote Off”.

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I wonder if I were uninsured and I went in for this visit, would they have wrote off 65% of the medical bill for me, or stuck my poor soul with the whole $400?!

Someone give me a spoon so I can gouge my eyes out! This is maddening!

-Holden

Consulting is not for the faint of heart

Sometimes I feel like consulting might be one of the hardest jobs on Earth.

For all of you who aren’t a consultant or never have been, answer the following questions for me:

  1. Do you regularly find yourself being sold as an “expert” on technologies or subject matter you might not have never even heard of?

This actually happens a lot in consulting. Bonus hungry managers and business developers sell off their consultants as experts in subject matter they may have never heard of, then when you show up at the client who is probably paying something to the tune of $100 an hour for your time, they are rightfully upset when they discover you aren’t the expert they were promised.

You turn to your own management and team to have the same business developers and managers tell you over and over, “Yes you are an expert”, you reply “no I’m not”, they return, “Oh yes you are!” and again you repeat, “Oh no I am not!”

  1. You’re expected to show up anywhere, sometimes many time zones or a multi-hour drive away from your home and put in the time until the job is finished. Your manager kindly buys you dinner, which is basically just a nice way of pointing out that you aren’t allowed to leave your little cube or conference room to go get your own dinner.

I experience 10 to 14 hour days on a semi-regular basis, not including commute times.

  1. You regularly have to watch clients pitch fits like children including pounding fists on desks, stomping around, saying one thing in private then back stabbing you in meetings and being terrible human beings altogether.

There tends to be at least one diva on every project.

So if consulting sucks so bad, why do you do it?

That leads me to why I’m writing this post. Why do I work in this field? I think because for those who are of strong character, it has the potential to transform you into a business powerhouse.

Over the past two years I’ve worked in this field I have:

  1. Mastered interpersonal communications and learned to deal with difficult people with precision, calm and tactfulness. Well, not quite mastered, but definitely came full circle.
  2. Became an IT wiz. Eventually you catch up and develop the skills you were sold as having, else you perish and limp off with your tail between your legs.
  3. Learned to say no! I used to have the hardest time saying no. I couldn’t even pass the damn Direct TV sales guys in Costco without politely giving them my attention for five solid minutes, only to sheepishly decline their offer. Now I walk in with my head held high and confidently assert “Hey guys! Thank you very much but I don’t need your FUCKING DIRECT TV!”
  4. Learned to enjoy a good fight and stay calm under fire. Dealing with unreasonable deadlines, clients who seem to never be happy and demanding managers forces you to really hone your Fight or Flight instincts and learn to assess stressful situations with a sound mind.

So that’s why I work in Consulting

Industry jobs aren’t for me. Doing the same routine day in and out isn’t for me. The things I hate most about consulting are coincidentally the things I love most about it. Being forced to learn new things all the time, being forced to travel, dealing with assholes and besting them in the long run.

Sometimes when you’re having a really bad day, it’s good to reflect or write down why it is you do whatever it is that is causing you so much grief.

In some cases, maybe this makes you realize you need to stop whatever it is you’re doing, while in others it reasserts why it is you get up every morning and keep fighting the good fight.

For now, I’ll keep fighting, if out of sheer stubbornness more so than anything else.

-Holden

Red Pill/Blue Pill

Recently, I decided to be son of the year and take my mom on a father/mother trip to Washington DC. I’d been working in the area for a while and decided to fly her up and have her stay with me in one of Washington DC’s fanciest hotels just a few blocks from the National Mall. It was a real treat for both of us.

I don’t have a history of getting along well with my mother, but I figured this time would be different. This time we’d bond and have a great time.

It didn’t go so well. I don’t need to elaborate or go into detail, but it really… really didn’t go so well.

I made a lot of personal discovery over the painful weekend though. It made me realize how much our experiences shape us. It made me appreciate the value of education, the college experience, travel and working in a diverse workplace. I made me realize just how boxed in many people become over time.

I don’t mean to fault the person who didn’t take the opportunity or possibly ever have the means or ability to experience these things, but instead want to stress that you should make it a priority in your life to seek these things out at all costs.

These things- education, the college experience, travel, and working in a diverse workplace are game changers. They are paradigm shifters. They are the difference between taking the Red Pill and the Blue Pill so to speak (as seen in the Matrix).

redblue_pill

Sadly, I get the impression that my mom sees me as uppity, snobbish or hoity-toity. And when I place myself in her shoes, and step back in time a bit and consider how I myself saw the world when I was a teenager, I guess I am just that according to my former self.

Today I’d defend myself against these accusations. I’d argue that I value quality and substance, I’d argue that there is true value to many of the finer things in life like the fine arts, expert craftsmanship, or even an admittedly overpriced craft beer.

Of course, all these perceptions and attitudes are things that have developed over time as I’ve met many different people from various walks of life, read endless books, sat in countless classroom lectures and seen multiple wondrous sights from different corners of the world.

My point is- enrich yourself at all costs. Don’t allow yourself to be boxed in, even if you think you are happy with this. Don’t accept the blue pill (the blissful ignorance of illusion). This path and formula isn’t the same for everyone, the elements of education, college, travel and a diverse workspace are simply my formula.

Find your own formula. Don’t take the blue pill. Open your eyes and step outside the little box of a mundane, two dimensional life.

-Holden

Why does Education in America suck?

Since having a few kids, I’ve read a few books on education and parenting. A few I made my way through the first few chapters and discarded. But there are two books in particular I found really useful.

One was solely on parenting, a book called Nurture Shock, which discussed education but solely from the view of a parent. But the other- “The Smartest Kids in the World” by Amanda Ripley, really delved into not just what should be happening on a family level, but the national level.

Ms. Ripley dived deep into the education systems of some of the best school systems in the world, including Finland, South Korea and Poland. There is a decent book review on the NY Times website if you’re interested in learning more.

This post is not about reviewing her book though, it’s about cutting to the chase.

What is the #1 reason education in the USA is lacking?

Is it our spending on education? No. The United States spends money on education like we do our military. We practically spend more per student than any other country in the world. We fill our class rooms with fancy technology (which is pretty much proved to do nothing but enrich the vendors who sell the gadgets), our classroom sizes tend to be lower than in many other developed nations, etc.

Is it our culture? Yes! According to Ms. Ripley’s research, students in America don’t take education seriously enough. Families don’t reinforce these values well enough across the board. And sports and athleticism often times take priority over learning.

And this cultural shortfall buttresses into a related, equally large issue…

Is it our teachers! YES!

The reason our education system lacks in the USA is our teachers. Not that our teachers are bad people, but because as a society, we’ve not raised the bar high enough to become a teacher.

After reading “The Smartest Kids in the World” and seeing how teachers are revered and the standards teachers must live up to in the best countries for education in the world, I am convinced, it’s our teachers! They simply aren’t up to snuff.

Consider the following:

  1. How hard is it to become a teacher in the United States?
  2. How hard is it to get admitted to an education degree program at even well recognized Universities in the United States?
  3. How hard it is to earn a Master’s Degree in education in the United States?
  4. If you are a college educated individual with a decent paying job (over $60k for example) would you ever consider quitting your job to become a teacher?

In Finland, getting accepted to one of their top education tract programs at the University level is like being accepted to MIT in the United States! Teachers also earn upwards of $70-80k a year (comparative to US dollars).

Like it or not, we have a teacher problem in the USA. Again, not that our teachers are bad people, but just that ANYONE CAN BECOME A TEACHER! It’s simply too easy and it doesn’t pay well enough.

A lot of other great insights are offered up in the book, and I encourage anyone interested in the subject to check it out.

The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way on Amazon

-Holden

Learning to Control my Emotions

My job brings me many great benefits. In includes lots of free travel, free training, encouragement to get certifications on their dime and their time, and the endless hotel/air/credit card points. But damnit, do I get sick of putting up with all the bullshit, and there is plenty of it to go around.

But then I think to myself, “When have I ever had a job that didn’t force me to endure a lot of bullshit either one way or the other.” There is no perfect scenario. Something is always going to suck. What needs to change is actually me.

I need to start focusing on harnessing my emotions. I need to learn to become more Zen about my job.

The strange thing is, I’ve pretty well accomplished this in my personal life. I’ve dealt with crap family and in-laws for so long, I’ve just got over it and accepted it. It rarely upsets me anymore as I’ve come to expect the negative parts of my personal life.

Yet, ironically I can’t seem to get over this hump in my professional life, and I’ve been at this career thing for some time now- going on 10 years.

I think I’m going to start a new exercise. Each morning, the first thing I’m going to do when I walk in the office is write down my personal goals for myself that day, but they’re not going to be work goals, they’re going to be emotional goals.

I’m going to repeat it every single damn day until this becomes second nature to me, and I’m going to write it all in this spiffy orange notebook below. Every time I slip up, I’m going to break away and re-write it.

Every… single… day…. Until I become a master of my emotions. The goal isn’t to be emotionless, just in charge of them, to keep them in check at all times. This is my next big challenge in life.

My daily goals for Zen Mastery of my Emotions:

  1. Today, I will not become visibly annoyed.
  2. Today, I will not protest or react over emotionally to any news- good or bad.
  3. Today, I will keep negative remarks and feelings to myself
  4. Today, I will keep calm and cool like a beachside breeze…

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-Holden