Why budgeting is a good idea

A few years back I was reading Mahatma Gandhi’s biography, “An Autobiography or The Story of my Experiments with Truth” and came across this passage that made me appreciate one more facet of Gandhi’s life.

“I kept account of every farthing I spent, and my expenses were carefully calculated. Every little item such as omnibus fares or postage or a couple of coppers spent on newspapers, would be entered, and the balance struck every evening before going to bed. That habit has stayed with me ever since, and I know that as a result, though I have had to handle public funds amounting to lakhs, I have succeeded in exercising strict economy in their disbursement, and instead of outstanding debts have had invariably a surplus balance in respect of all the movements I have led. Let every youth take a leaf out of my book and make it a point to account for everything that comes into and goes out of his pocket, and like me he is sure to be a gainer in the end.”

Excerpt From: Desai (Translator), Mahadev. “An Autobiography or The Story of my Experiments with Truth.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/2Qkew.l

I understood Gandhi’s advice at an intellectual level but putting it into practice…well… I am not a Gandhi…let me leave it at that.

To me the word budgeting had a lot of negative connotations.

  1. Budgeting is restrictive
  2. Budgeting is hard work
  3. Budgeting does not work
  4. Budgeting is not for everyone especially not me.

These negative connotations were slowly being bombarded through various sources. I had budgetsa co-worker who was passionate about budgeting. He sent me Excel templates and instructions on how to use them. I read some financial books that put budgeting as the first step. Vicki Robin in her book, “Your Money or Your Life” made a great case for budgeting and not just budgeting but the relationship of money with your life’s energy.

Slowly and surely these negative connotations have all been neutralized and in their place I have some new insights on budgeting.

  1. Budgeting is about freedom
  2. Budgeting is about valuing your time and energy
  3. Budgeting is about prioritizing
  4. Budgeting is easy

 1. Budgeting is about freedom

By setting a limit for spending, I am not restricting myself but giving myself permission to spend that money. I am consciously deciding to spend the money I allocated without any guilt whatsoever. This is freedom.

2. Budgeting is about valuing your time and energy.

Realizing the equation between the money you earn and what it costed you in terms of your time and your energy will make it easy to walk away from that random and mindless purchase.

3. Budgeting is about prioritizing

Knowing what is important vs what is not important to you personally is very critical. Say, you like clothes or travel or eating out or cars and don’t care so much about books or movies or cable or cellphones. If you decide on your #1 priority for spending then you can put a limit on it that can be satisfactory to you. Similarly, you can put a limit on your lower priorities. Anything you save spending on your lower priorities can be added onto your higher priorities which will give you more satisfaction.

 4. Budgeting is easy

I have started using Mint which makes it so easy to budget and track your spending. There are similar tools available to track spending but I have liked Mint so far and planning on using it.

Following Gandhi’s advice of tracking expenses daily may be a bit too much but weekly or even monthly tracking of your budget is not a bad idea.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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How did our ancestors survive? part – 7

In part-6 of this series, I linked a documentary titled, “The Search For Scientific Adam”. This documentary showed a scientist using DNA analysis to find out if all existing humanity came from one person and if so where did he live and how did he look like. If you have not watched this documentary then spoiler alert! Yes, the search is successful.

To me, it is amazing that all of us came from one single person. That all of us have one common human ancestor. Also, since all life came from one single amoeba, for some it may not seem such a big deal about having a common ancestor. Because we have a tendency to search for patterns and meanings, having one common ancestor gives a little bit more meaning. Let me explain.

If there was one common ancestor to all of existing humanity in all these different parts of the world then why did people not stay in one place? Why did folks move from a familiar place to a new place and start all over again? New place, new foods, new challenges, new predators, new climatic conditions and new methods for surviving?

Survival was possible only in groups. Only groups could hunt and bring food. Surviving as an individual or a family was almost impossible. So, why did groups decide to move out from the familiar base and expand into different territories? Was there a system that was put in place? A collaborative system that chose/volunteered/trained folks to move out of the base after the group reached a certain number.

We may never know but it is worth spending a few minutes to reflect on the driving factors for not just survival but growth. One day humans may outlive the earth, the solar system and find new homes in space. On the other hand, with the current climate change and wars, it may look like humans are ready for extinction. As the comedian George Calvin ranted about it as shown in the youtube video below, the only reason why we are here could be plastic. Earth needed plastic. It created humans. We made plastic and then we will be gone…. maybe.

But there is a  possibility that if humans existed for a few more millions of years then they wouldn’t be living on earth. Earth may become inhabitable and this was the backdrop to Will Smith’s movie, “After Earth”.  Anyhow, the crux of the matter is that the survival of future generations could depend on what we do in this generation or every generation from now on.

When I started on this topic, I had no idea how I was going to end this series. Somehow, slowly the picture emerged. Along the way I made some wild guesses that human survival even at the early stages could have had a driving purpose. The purpose of perfecting the body and mind for future generations to survive. Once perfection was achieved with Adam, the world was ready to be taken over. Language, drawings, writings, agriculture and  industries followed in the blink of the earth’s eye to get to the current state where humans may be at the cusp of destroying themselves.

I know that there are many initiatives to reverse climate change. Personally, I have not taken any action other than recycling. I want to do my part no matter how little it may be. If there was any benefit in writing this series then this may be it. Knowing where we came from can only help in knowing where we want to go. If a simple decision by a chimp to stand upright against all odds put into motion all of this then no decision can be small to move us in the right direction.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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What if…there is God? – part 3

In part-2 of this series, I wrote about the fundamental condition between the Creation and the created. It is that the created soul will know The Creator the moment it comes in contact with The Creator. No explanation needed. No proof needed. That is as good a condition as it can be, in my honest opinion.

The full experience will happen after the death of the human body and until then if there is  any experience then the experience is not complete. (I will avoid using, “in my honest opinion” because it is understood that these are all my opinions, some strong and some weak but nevertheless just my opinions). There has been lots of books written about this experience, a spiritual one, from time immemorial. It is complicated and not so much conducive for a small blog post. Let me simplify.

Reality = Experience

Whatever you experience is your Reality. Many experiences are common and so we have a common Reality. There are some experiences that are uncommon and these are so strong that they alter your perception of Reality. When these uncommon experiences are explained to rest of the common folks, some understand, some get confused and many ignore. To put it simply, in reality, Reality seems elusive.

That is when folks expect science to explain Reality. But the problem with science is that it has many branches and sub-branches. With these different branches, Reality becomes like the proverbial elephant that is being understood by 4 blind men. Each blind man has his own experience. One says it is like a tree, another says it is like a rope. Each one is right but no one has the full picture.

Sometimes, a spiritual experience gives the blind the power to see the Reality. It is like seeing the elephant for a brief moment but not knowing what the elephant is capable of nor where the elephant came from. Also, it makes it tough to explain this experience to the folks who have never seen an elephant before. So, it is complicated and here is an example to further illustrate my point.

I came across an interesting biography of a guy called Bruno from the science show on TV, “Cosmos: A space-time Odyssey”, hosted by Neil Degrasse Tyson. Bruno sees a vision of  earth as a planet revolving around Sun. This was in 16th century or so when earth was considered to be at the center of the universe and the sun was thought to revolve around the earth.

When Bruno spoke about his vision, he did that in a strong way and not as an idea or a concept. He got on a pulpit, condemned folks who could not understand his Reality. Bruno’s contention was that his new Reality proved God more powerful and more worthy of worship. Bruno’s Reality is now common knowledge.

I have talked about this in my earlier blog post about the pale, blue dot that earth is. This Reality is more amazing than the one where earth is flat and the sun goes round the earth during the day and during the night it travels back to east and rises back from east. This reality would be so boring!. But our ancestors lived in this Reality for millions of years.

Anyhow, coming back to our story, Bruno gets rejected every where but does not give up 1024px-Brunostatueon his Reality. He gets into trouble with the Catholic Church and when the Church sentences him to death, he says this memorable words which have made him a science martyr. Perhaps your fear in passing judgment on me is greater than mine in receiving it.”

To stop Bruno from talking any further, his tongue was pierced and jaw locked down. Bruno was then burnt on the stake. In other words Bruno literally staked his life for his Reality which manifested to him through a spiritual experience. Today, there is a statue of Bruno in Rome in the spot where he was killed.

With Bruno’s story as the backdrop, we can add spiritual experience to the understanding of Reality.

The Reality = Physical Experience + Spiritual Experience

In other words if God is real then that needs to be based on physical and spiritual experiences. Take physical experience out, Reality can become full of random spiritual experiences that no one can comprehend.  Take spiritual experience out, we have too many unanswered questions.

I will elaborate on this further in my next post on this topic.

Thanks for reading and var a great day! 

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“The Griddle” is now our new favorite breakfast place

Brunches will now be more fun after the opening of the new breakfast place in our neighborhood. We tried it out last Saturday. The food was great. The ambience was great.

Before I get into more details on what we ate at The Griddle , let me give a little background of our brunches.

A few years back we decided to limit going to chain restaurants like Village Inn and IHOP to minimize eating processed foods. So, there was not much choice of restaurants in our neighborhood. We had no option but to drive somewhere from half an hour to 1 hr and then the wait time most of the time used to be an hour to an hour and a half.

This made the brunches anywhere from 4 to 5 hour activities. Last time when we wanted to go to some nice breakfast place, I called ahead and found that the wait time was 1.5 hours. So, we decided not to go.

Now, imagine my excitement when I saw this new place open in our neighborhood. I immediately stopped by to pick up the menu hoping to go there on the weekend. On a weekday, the restaurant was buzzing and that was another good sign.

The very next Saturday, we went around 10 AM. The drive was 2 minutes and the wait was 15 mins. Not bad at all. The menu was definitely interesting and after much deliberation (most of the items looked good), I decided to go with Savory Griddle Cakes – Veggie.

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That was a great choice. It had jalapeño, tomato, onion and mushroom mixed in the pancake and topped with avocado and sour cream. It tasted amazing and even though it was a lot, I did justice and finished almost all of it. This was my first time eating a savory pan cake and am now a fan of it.

Ayesha and Heba liked their choices too. So, overall it was a great experience trying out some good food in a neighborhood place.

Here is some more info about the restaurant. It is owned and operated by the Garman family. Grandpa, Grandma, Son, Son’s girlfriend, Daughter, Son-in-Law and grand-daughter all work there in different capacities. Website is www.TheGriddle303.com

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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Can getting to Zero In-box decrease your stress and make you healthier?

Getting to Zero In-box when your inbox looks like the one in the picture can be inbox-overflowvery challenging. There are multiple ways in which you can get to Zero Inbox and I have outlined some of these in my earlier posts. My tips have been mostly in the space of improving productivity. However, it is well known that clutter causes stress. If the physical inbox where the paper stuff comes in is down to zero then it is a source of joy.

Every time my desk is clean and the mail is sorted and put into the right folders, I feel a sense of accomplishment/relief/joy. In other words a clean and organized desk is a source of happiness. Gretchen Rubin, author of “The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun” used to take this to another level. She would not only keep her stuff organized as seen in the title of the book itself, “Clean My Closets” but also volunteer her services to organize her family and friends’ homes.

If you look into Feng Shui, there is a lot of focus on decluttering your space so that there is a flow of positive energy. Karen Kingston, the author of “Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui: Free Yourself from Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Clutter Forever” talks about the reasons why clutter happens in the first place. What are your thought processes that lead to clutter happening.

One of my colleagues, who downsized from a big house to a smaller house by moving to west coast, was telling me about how the spouse who never cooks would store cook books from years and would not throw them away. That was just one example of the collector’s mentality. Because of this collector’s mentality, they were overflowing with stuff and when forced to move they made the easiest decision that many folks make in that situation. They rented a storage space to keep their stuff.

The same thought processes are in place when you let your electronic inboxes cluttered. . There are two emotions that are in play usually.

  1. The thought that you will need this email or this article later –  Collection
  2. The thought that you do not want to deal with this email or article now – Procrastination

How to overcome these emotions is not the focus of this post. The focus is understanding the benefits. Once you know the why then you there are many ways to figure out the what and the how.

Even though there is no brain research that I have come across that links a zero inbox to increased dopamine levels in your brain that are a cause for your happiness, I have a strong hunch that clearing your inbox will decrease your stress and make you healthier.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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Tony Robbins on financial independence

I came across this video where Tony Robbins talked about financial independence. It is an hour long video and if you have the time then watch it otherwise I have listed below some key takeaways.

  1. Definition of financial security, financial independence and financial freedom.
    1. Financial Security: Housing, cars, food and basic entertainment is covered for life
    2. Financial Independence: You don’t have to work and everything is covered
    3. Financial Freedom: You don’t have to work and everything you can think of is covered.
  2. No amount of money will make you wealthy because the moment you reach your goal, you move it further.
  3. Pick a specific percentage of income to invest periodically – no matter what. “Pay yourself first” philosophy.
  4. 80% of wealth is psychology and 20% os mechanics.
  5. Three buckets of asset allocation in the following order.
    1. Security Bucket (30-40%) consists of cash for 2-6 months, your home, IRA, insurance, fixed income investments
    2. Growth Bucket (30-40%)
    3. Dream Bucket (remaining %)
  6. Your decisions not your conditions determine your financial destiny.

Thanks for reading and have a great day! 

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How did our ancestors survive? part – 6

In the part – 5 of this series, I came up with a theory that our ancestors probably followed an inspired plan to propagate the needed changes in human DNA even though these changes may not have helped them during their lifetimes. It is definitely a very wild guess and to me, it somehow gives a purpose to all those generations who suffered immense hardships to survive.

I have heard multiple times, folks recalling olden days as the golden days. I am not so sure about that. I will not trade these times to times when there was no electricity or even to recent times when there was no high-speed internet. When our 8-year old gets bored when we are eating out in restaurants and asks for iPad or smartphone, we tell her about our childhoods when these devices were not there. She got so tired of these stories that one day she asked us not to tell our sad stories of olden days.

Yes, there are many sad stories of our ancestors. Just the other day, we were stuck at Home Depot due to a hail storm and my father-in-law remarked how folks can survive a hail storm in open spaces. The hail was the size of a golf-ball and just imagine a hunter-gatherer family is out in the open and they get hit by a hail storm. It would have been highly unlikely for them to survive.

The reason I have been going into this much detail about our ancestors is to be grateful and thankful for the things that I have now. It is so easy to forget all the benefits that we are reaping. Every benefit that we have was not available to many folks. One of the reasons that we are getting obese is because of our bodies are built to store fat which is used up during famines or simply unavailability of food for days. That was a common occurrence then but it is not anymore for many folks.

Anyhow, coming back to what I promised to talk about in this post, the research done to locate the scientific Adam. Here is the documentary that shows the research done to get to the root of the DNA to find out if there was an ancestor who is the father of everyone currently living on earth. It is a very interesting documentary and as is science’s wont, it may answer one question but opens up a bunch of others.

I hope you like this documentary. I will wrap up this series in my next blog post.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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What if…there is God? – part 2

In part – 1 of this series, I explained why the right question is not, “Is there God?” and instead a better one is, “What if… there is God?”. This may lead to a common understanding and a common understanding may get us closer to the truth.

With this question we can start with a blank slate to answer the questions that have been plaguing humankind for a long time. One such question is “Why can’t we see God?”.

God is unseen for a reason. My theory is that once anyone sees God there is no going back. No going back to a human existence. Why? I will try to answer this not-so-easy question. (Appreciate if any gaps in my thinking are pointed so as to help me get a better understanding)

Human body is a vehicle for the soul that it carries. A soul’s creation could have happened before the human body came into existence and the soul is transferred into the human body by God. The soul may somehow know the existence of God and the life it led before coming into the human body but this knowledge is obviously, hidden. This must be one of the conditions of a human existence.

When the soul residing in a human body sees God in its human existence then the barrier is broken and all knowledge will return. Then the soul cannot go back to its human existence. Why?

Imagine you become an ant and forget that you were a human being. One day your consciousness returns and you realize that you have been living as an ant. With this consciousness you obviously, cannot live like an ant. Any ant behavior will be menial and disgusting. Any ant relationships will become trivial. The entire ant life will become meaningless.

Similarly, when you regain the consciousness of an other worldly soul and look at the human life, you may realize that the relationships and the busyness of a human life are meaningless in comparison to who you were and what you were capable of.

That, to me is the reason why we cannot see God. When the soul meets its Creator, the soul will know. There will be no explanation from the Creator, no proof needed from the Creator to inform the soul of its creation. The soul will know. That, I think is the fundamental condition between a Creator and the created.

The “what-if” question creates a blank slate from which we can try to make sense of the complicated world around us.

I will explore further on this topic in my next post of this series.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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TEDx MileHigh “Emergence” – a fun and inspiring event

On June 14th, Ayesha and I attended the TEDx MileHigh event, themed “Emergence” held in Downtown Denver which was attended by approx 2000 folks. It was a fun event that started at 11 AM and went on till 7 PM.  There were 15 different presentations and every presentation was awesome.

Of these 15 presentations, 3 were done by seventeen year old scientists. One kid developed an artificial gene to kill disese-causing bacteria, one kid invented a filter that separates carbon dioxide from methane while drilling natural gas, and the last kid developed a cure for skin cancer by turning off a protein in the cell. No wonder that each one of these kids got a standing ovation from the entire audience.

The rest of the presenters had good information too and personally I liked the presentation done by Chuck Blakeman. Here is Chuck’s bio taken from the authors page on Amazon.com

Chuck started and built eight businesses in 25 years in the U.S. and internationally, and now uses his leadership experience to advise others. His company, Crankset Group, provides outcome-based advisory for business leaders worldwide in the U.S., Europe, Africa, and Asia.

Chuck sold one of his businesses to the largest consumer fulfillment company in America and led three other $10-$100 million companies through repositioning in the Marketing Support Services industry. He presently leads the Crankset Group and a for-profit business based in Africa, focused on developing local economies to solve poverty.

Mr. Blakeman is a results leader, and has decades of sales, marketing and operations experience leading companies in marketing, import/export, fulfillment, call centers, website development, printing and direct mail processing.

Some of Mr. Blakeman’s customers have included Apple, Microsoft, Eli Lilly & Co., TAP Pharmaceuticals, Sun Microsystems, Tyco Healthcare, Johns Manville and many more large and small businesses.

He is a convention speaker, writer, and non-profit board member. His first book, “Making Money is Killing Your Business”, was named #1 Business Book of the Year by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), the largest business owner association in America. His new book, Why Employees are ALWAYS a Bad Idea, has already been named a Top Ten Business Book of the year by WealthManagement.com

I was so impressed by the content of his speech that I met him after the speech and bought his book. I have not yet started reading it and will do a book review when I am done reading it.

One other interesting thing that happened was the coincidence of finding out Phil Drolet as one of the speakers. I have recently blogged about how I came across his blog feelgoodlifestyle and in the same week, I got to hear him speak. Phil was not around during book signings otherwise I would have met him to get some tips on blogging.

Overall, it was a fun and a great learning experience. I think the videos will be posted soon at the TEDx MileHigh website.

I will be eagerly looking forward to more of these events.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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Documentary Review: Simply Raw. Reversing Diabetes in 30 days

Sometime last year, I purchased the documentary movie, “Simply Raw. Reversing 51Lx5y8+klLDiabetes in 30 days” to know how diabetes can be reversed. I never heard that diabetes could be reversed and so I was curious to find out how this was going to be done and that too in only 30 days.

A little bit of background here. My parents have been battling with diabetes for a long time and the usual issues that go with it. I also volunteered for American Diabetes Association for a few years and during that time got a chance to learn a lot about diabetes. In all these years, I have never heard anyone mention that diabetes could be cured. All I heard was that once your body develops insulin resistance there is no going back.

When I came across this movie, I wanted to see it. Since it was not available then on netflix, I had to order the dvd online.

I sat through the entire movie and watched it. It is very slow-paced and gives the feel of a boring reality show. It is not the typical documentary where experts are talking and statistics are being thrown out at you like in a powerpoint presentation. However, it is worth watching to see the final results and how things changed for the protagonists of the movie.

Here is the story line from the movie’s website. (http://www.rawfor30days.com/themovie.html)

Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days is an independent documentary film that chronicles six Americans with diabetes who switch to a diet consisting entirely of vegan, organic, uncooked food in order to reverse disease without pharmaceutical medication. The six are challenged to give up meat, dairy, sugar, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, soda, junk food, fast food, processed food, packaged food, and even cooked food for 30 days. The film follows each participant’s remarkable journey and captures the medical, physical, and emotional transformations brought on by this radical diet and lifestyle change. We witness moments of struggle, support, and hope as what is revealed, with startling clarity, is that diet can reverse disease and change lives.

The film highlights each of the six before they begin the program and we first meet them in their home environment with their families. Each participant speaks candidly about their struggle to manage their diabetes and how it has affected every aspect of their life, from work to home to their relationships.

This film definitely gives hope of reversing diabetes. The advice is simple and like everything else in life, the advice seems very hard to follow. If you have not seen this movie and someone in your family is battling diabetes then recommend this movie for them.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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