What is your number?

A woman sued the the City of New York for $900,000,000,000 (trillion) dollars for taking away her kids.  My college roommate once asked me, “How much do you want to earn?” I told him $500,000 per year. The crazy woman from NYC and I have a lot more in common than I want to admit.

My younger self foreshadowed my financial needs in life to be sustained by a salary of $500,000. Similar to the crazy woman’s number, mine was just as arbitrary. At that time the most I had ever earned was $5,000, but I needed a 9990% increase in my annual income to be worry free and happy.

I often think to myself: Why is it that in work we work countless hours planning for next years budgets, but in our personal lives we are so laissez-faire?

Money enables you to support the lifestyle you want, but the reality is that many of us never take a moment to think about what lifestyle we want, why we want that lifestyle, why will that lifestyle make you happy or, what is enough?

Despite all of our informal education — reading books, watching TV and movies, listening to family and friends, etc. — and formal education — K-12, College, etc. — the only thing we learned was “earn a lot of money.”

If you never question your needs and wants, then you will be like zombie chasing something that does not exist.

What do you really, really, really want?  Or, what really, really, really makes you happy? I try to ask myself this almost every morning, but the question is really important. Do I want to be the CEO of Google? Do I want to be a teacher? Do I want to be a farmer? Do I want to be an artist? Do I want a family? Do I want children? Do I want a roof over my head?

On average you have ~30,000 days to live: ~15,000 of them will be spent working; and, the remaining 15,000 days are hopefully spent living how you want. 15,000 days worth of work are financing the remaining 15,000 days.

If you are happy and passionate with your work and it is helping you enjoy the remaining 15,000 days, you are blessed — be grateful. If you are happy with your work and it is helping you enjoy the remaining 15,000 days, awesome — you are living the good life. If you are not happy with your work and it is helping you enjoy the remaining 15,000 days, good — congratulations you are living half the good life. If you are not happy your work and it is not helping you enjoy the remaining 15,000 days, run — cut your losses and make some big changes.

Whatever scenario you find yourself in, you should seek to optimize your 30,000 days.

What is my number? I have pulled together a Google Spreadsheet here (or, click image). Copy it to your Google Docs and figure out what your number is!

Step 1: What are the basics of your lifestyle? Think about the basics shelter, food and healthcare. At the end of the day, those are the things you need to “survive” as a human.

    • Roof over your head? Utilities?
    • Food?
    • Healthcare expenses?
    • Other?

Step 2: How much do you want to save? Think about retirement savings, life insurance, etc.

    • Roth IRA? 401K?
    • Life Insurance?
    • Emergency Savings?

Step 3: What are all the expenses beyond the basics? Think about all the movies, the iPhones/iPads, clothes, etc.

    • Entertainment? Movies? 
    • Vacation?
    • Travel?
    • Charity?

Now, that you have your number: Ask yourself why? Why do you want x, y or z? And, then ask yourself why five more times? Do you want this amount of money because you watched Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous all the time? Or, is it based on a sincere and authentic desire based on what you want.

Please share your thoughts below and pass this on if you feel it is useful.

All good things,


(Photo by 401k)

How do you stay inspired?

Photo courtesy of Mark Brannan (http://www.flickr.com/photos/heycoach/1197946127/)
Mark Brannan

I am feeling tired. I don’t feel like it. I am feeling bored. I feel indifferent. I am feeling apathetic. Too often, I hear these words reverberating through my head.

Often times, when something like this happens, I simply resign to these thoughts and let myself go with some of the following things: Watch a little television. Browse the Internet (Huffington Post or Facebook). Have a bite to eat. Or, my personal favorite, take a nap.

Motion = emotion: There are millions of studies on this, but, by personal experimentation, the best and sure fire way to knock myself out of an inspiration funk is to get moving. Doing some jumping jacks, push ups or jumping up and down gets the blood moving. Every time you feel bored, tired, etc. get moving for just 30 seconds. See what happens!

Fill Up Your Inspiration Batteries: Some might consider this a waste of time, but, the way I figure it, I am already wasting time by thinking about feeling bored, tired, etc., so I might as well do something productive with that time. So, here is my list of excellent sites to go to feel inspired and rewire my brain to focus on staying inspired:

+ DailyGood.org: Everyday the folks behind DailyGood.org find the most inspirational, thought provoking and inspirational articles across the web. Read some of my favorites here

+ KarmaTube.org: Find the most inspirational, thought provoking and uplifting videos from YouTube, TED.com, Vimeo.etc and many other sites.

+ HelpOthers.org: Read about small and anonymous acts of kindness and generosity from across the world.

+ iJourney.org: Read passage about the human experience, philosophy, spirituality and going within. Every Wednesday, around the world, these articles are discussed in weekly meditations in peoples homes.

+ TED.com: The popular and always inspiring and thought provoking videos from movers and shakers from around the world. There is also the TEDMed Conference (videos on innovating healthcare) and Ted Ed (video lessons).

+ The Do Lectures: Ideas + Energy = Change. Inspiring talks from people who are taking action to make change a reality.

+ e.g. Conference: Videos exploring insights from innovators across all industries and all around the world.

+ The 99 Percent: “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” ~ Thomas Edison. Videos that focus on bringing ideas to life.

Drink Water First, Then Coffee or Tea: I am sure you are just like me — you don’t actually need the caffeine, you actually are just feeling bored, tired, etc. and are trying to push off the responsibility to the lack of coffee in your body. Drink some water, wait 10 minutes and see how you feel.

Breath: Stop whatever you are doing. Count each breath. In. One. Out. Two. In. Three. Out. Four… See if you can get to 30. I can barely get to 10 without getting distracted or wanting to do something else. It takes practice to just do that for 60 seconds. See if it helps refocus you.

Don’t Be Inspired: Take a nap, feel bored, drink coffee, watch TV, watch inane YouTube videos. If it inspires you and gets you moving great. If not, then you will learn (again) that those things don’t work and try one of the be above ideas 😉

In hopes that you stay a little more inspired,


*Photo by Mark Brannan

We don’t want to sit quietly for the next five minutes

“We sit in our cells for for 21.5 hours-a-day. We don’t want to sit quietly for the next five minutes…” Marshall* said. 

“Okay.” I replied with my heart sinking and my voice tapering off.

At 7AM on a Monday in the winter of 2006, I was sitting in a cold recreational room in the Jackson Correctional Facility, a level-4 maximum security prison, working with incarcerated individuals to create a play. Marshall’s words pierced my very being and fundamentally transformed how I looked at other individuals.

I imagined — in the time he spoke those two defining sentences — this young man, who was perhaps the same age as me, and the last 5 years of his sentence and the next 30 years that he would still serve. I imagined him sitting in his cell day-after-day without fresh air. I imagined him without the ability to make a quick unscheduled phone call. I imagined him feeling lonely. I imagined him looking forward to the 1.5 hour workshop once a week on Monday mornings at 7AM.

I felt — in that moment — his strength, his experience and his emotion. For that singular moment, I became him — there was no other place in the Universe that my mind was but in the emotions of his experience…where I was sitting in that cell as him for 21.5 hours-a-day. My past and future thoughts melted away — I was present — I was him.


In an effort to brainstorm what we would write our play about, I requested that the 13 of us sit quietly for 5 minutes and then go around the circle to discuss what thoughts went through our minds. I did not have the slightest idea that it would be met even with an ounce of resistance.

It was at this time, when Marshall spoke these two sentences, where I began to understand the meaning of our shared identity. From that point forward, when I am giving my ticket to the train conductor, being served by a waiter, or interacting with family/friends/coworkers, I try to look beyond my perceptions of how I think they look or what I think they are saying, or what I think they are thinking, and, instead, focus on their experience and their emotions. In that space, all the layers of looks, words and thoughts peel away, and, you and me becomes we.

Some notes/resources:

+ *Although many incarcerated individuals do not use their actual names when in prison, I wanted to protect the identity of “Marshall” by using a fictional name.

+ Prison Creative Arts Project: If you would like to learn more about the program that enabled me to volunteer in a prison, please go here.

+ Jackson Correctional Facility: This maximum security prison used to be one of the largest prisons in the country, but it was recently sold to a movie studio to produce films and television shows.

+ Prison Industrial Complex: Incarceration has become a very large and significant business with strong lobbies to promote increased incarceration of people in the United States. Corrections Corp of America (NYSE: CCA) is one of many publicly traded companies whose business model revolves around creating more prisons and housing more inmates.To learn more go here.