One of my favorite doctors is Dr. Gifford-Jones who publishes in the Ottawa Sun(Jan.11-2014)
A New Year's resolution that makes sense
Learning to live within your means
Where do I get ideas for this column? Normally from reliable medical sources. But the New Year's resolution for this particular column comes from the Daily Reckoning, a financial publication. Its advice is sound for all of us as we start 2014. Its topic is "The Parable of Taganga".
A U.S. investment adviser was visiting a small fishing village in Columbia called Taganga. As he strolled along the pier, a fisherman appeared with his daily catch. The basket contained four tilapia.
When the American was told the fish had been caught quickly, he said, "So why didn't you catch more fish?" The fisherman replied, "This is all I need to feed my family." (1)
So the American asked, "How do you spend the rest of the day?" The Columbia answered, "I have a siesta with my wife, play with my children, talk with my friends, drink a little wine or sing with my amigos. It's a good life." (2)
(3) The American then suggested, "You could fish longer, sell the fish and with more money buy another boat and soon have your own fleet of ships. Eventually you cut out the middleman and sell straight to the distributor. You could become so successful you'd end up in New York City running your tilapia empire, have a public stock offering and become filthy rich."
"How long would this take?" the fisherman asked.
"Maybe 25 years," the American replied.
"But what would I do then?" the Columbia asked?
The investment adviser replied, "This is the best part." You could retire, move to this quaint fishing village. Then you could fish, enjoy siestas with your wife, play with your children, sip wine and sing with your amigos."
As we enter 2014 it's ironic that millions of North Americans who hate their jobs try to work hard all their lives, hoping that at some point they too can lie on the beach in Florida or some other beautiful location in Taganga. Some make it to the beach, but there are millions who never do.(4)
Nor can many decide to pack their backs, say to hell with what they're doing and start fishing in Tananga. So what can be done to make 2014 a more relaxing year without such a dramatic change in scenery? (5)
Over the years I've seen innumerable patients who needed to spend a few days with a Columbian fisherman. Those who have never learned to live within their means or realize it's possible to be happy with less. That it is not necessary to buy every new gizmo that comes on the market. Yet hardly a day goes by without the temptation to open their wallets and go further into debt.(6)
During 2014 others will not learn to separate the possible from the impossible with even a trainload of psychiatrists to help them. Some of my patients have an incompetent boss who should never have been promoted. Unfortunately, unless they win the lottery, there is no way to tell the boss to go to hell and quit. (7)
Similarly if your wife has suddenly run away with your best friend, you need more than a winning lottery ticket as a solution. (8) I've always believed that Stalin, who was never a role model, had at least one good suggestion when he remarked that you have to live with the devil until you reach the end of the bridge. (9)
We must all accept and live with a problem until the right solution comes along - and not, in the meantime, kill ourselves with stress.(10)
Henry David Thoreau was right when he wrote, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." It's highly unlikely that the desperation of many will diminish in 2014. Today, people can't escape the constant pressure of new ideas, behaviours and technology.(11)
Remember, some stress is good. Animals in the jungle would not last the night without it. My best wishes for a healthy and less stressful 2014.(12)
See the web site www.docgiff.com. For comments email@example.com
(1) Commonly known as 'the doctrine of superior land use'; which is the justification used by early settlers in North America to justify displacing native peoples who lived 'within a balance of nature' by not exploiting the natural environment. Modern day Capitalists would seek to demonize such groups as terrorists such as in the term 'eco-terrorists'.
(2) Not being ambitious, but believing in the value of work, I have never been sucked into the love of money which is the source of greed and the downfall socially of most ambitious business people. My business experience in a small family run wholesale industrial company was one in which I was trained in the 1950's to serve the needs of the customer even if I did not get the Order. For example, I would sometimes advise against people installing a home alarm system (a franchise I held in the 1990's) if it was not a solution to their problem; an action which would get me fired in most large corporations.
(3) Thus changing the fisherman forever as a businessman incapable of ever returning to his earlier life. For example, once a teacher takes an administrative position; it's a truism that he can never return to the classroom successfully as a full-time teacher. Similar advice applies to business supervisors.
(4) It is not the 'best part'. It is the worst part as 25 years of long hours working is not likely to lead to someone happy to lounge around a beach for the rest of their lives. A busy mind does not make for an idle mind. It's hell on earth and I have witnessed it more than a few times particularly as it applies to people who cannot retire (such as my father who never took a holiday in 35 years but insisted that I take mine.) My deceased sister was married to an entrepreneur who 'made it' in Silicon Valley with his typical 75 hour work weeks. They divorced after 25 years of marriage and she died as a bag lady on the street. Money was not a problem. There was no substance abuse although mental illness was a factor. She had a high I.Q. but was insecure and never stuck to any endeavor. There were no children. Success, in life, lies in choosing one thing and mastering it as a career. I saw many upwardly climbing families while teaching in West Vancouver. In the words of 'Dear Abby'; love must be attached to PRESENCE for a successful family relationship. As a family man, I treasure our 40 years of marriage in which we have raised two independent sons. 'Mollycoddling' we didn't as parents spoiling children is a cardinal sin in robbing them of their right to meet challenges shaped by caring parents to suit their maturity level. The universal problem is, of course, the one of 'children raising children'.
(5) Bumper Sticker: 'I owe, I owe, it's off to work I go.' We never owed but then we never owned a house. Having two children close in age was our goal with a stay-at-home wife until they were well in elementary school, cost us home ownership.
(6) This is the biggest change over my lifetime; namely to see how advertising was very limited in the 40's and 50's while today it has become over-pervasive so that people are encouraged to live faulty commercial dreams. Typical was Playboy in the 1950's which, while weakening sexual mores, created a type of Lothario which could not exist in that few men had the energy, the good looks, the money and the time to pursue a sybaritic narcissistic lifestyle aka actor, Charlie Sheen. Also, women are demeaned as objects for the enjoyment of men (Playboy bunnies), not as mature individuals with family responsibilities. Today, the prevalence of internet porn is perverting young people as young as ten in ways that are disturbing and yet to be assessed as to how such conditioning will shape these youngsters into mature adults.
(7) In effect, I told the boss to go to hell when I mailed evidence of his fraud to the Minister of Education in 1985 which led to a 29 year unresolved legal case (over 30 judges and 8 courts) due to systematic judicial abuse which has destroyed democratic Canada in a story without equal. In brief, because I did not quit, I was 'quited'. The usual stunts were pulled...'Go see a psychiatrist'. When I relocated from Vancouver to Ottawa, I took my medical file with me from the family Doctor who examined me at my request. I still have his one-liner to the West Vancouver School Board: 'Mr. Callow is very fit, physically, mentally, and emotionally.' Of course that information was conspicuous by its absence from the arbitration (later quashed with the government-appointed arbitrator labeled 'patently unreasonable'). What was stated was...'It got so bad that we had to order him to see a psychiatrist'. Even the arbitrator was livid that there was no apparent follow-up for he had been robbed of his crowning indictment. Blessed are those who have a good boss, for they are too often a rare breed. Prime Minister Harper is one such example of poor leadership as reflected by his many bad appointments. In the words of my late businessman father; 'If the top man is weak; that weakness will be perpetrated down through the Company as no weak leader will have men below him to be stronger. Remember, to a leader, it is the employee beneath him that must be watched for he is the one after the superior's job.' Thus good people are being shafted all the time.
(8) As the limerick goes: 'My wife ran away with my best friend. I don't know about her, but I sure miss him.' None of my teen-age friends are still with their first wife while I have enjoyed 40 years of marriage. Much depends on luck although we try to enhance those features by being responsible and spending time with our spouse; much like watering a plant. For example, I considered it cheap psychiatric help by taking my wife out every Saturday night leaving our young children with a babysitter. In general, men do no appreciate how desperately young mothers need adult time apart from children to relieve stress. Many families cannot afford such luxuries which no doubt explains the presence of 'screaming children' in those restaurants we now choose to avoid.
(9) The late novelist, Morris West, expressed this notion thus through the words of a priest: 'We go from uncertainty to uncertainty forever seeking certainties knowing full well that the next step is yet another uncertainty.' As to former school-teacher and psychopath, Joseph Stalin, there is always another devil at the end of that bridge. Perhaps the Buddhists capture the notion best with their 'middle path' in trying to find an essence among the tumult. Realistically, the Employee's Case is unlikely to be resolved 'in our time' but that does not detract me from the welcome challenge I find in quoting relevant lines from some of the world's best writers regarding justice and relating these lines to the unique features of an unresolved 29 year legal case due to systematic judicial abuse; e.g. 'What must be avoided at all costs, is a fundamental deprivation of justice under the law.' Justice Estey (St. Anne Nackawic)
(10) While not always successful, my approach to relieving stress is function in black and white terms; either the answer is a positive or a negative - indeterminate responses construed as negatives. Plan A sketches out two possible scenarios but it is always Plan B or even C which forces a revision due to unraveling events. I don't fret about outcomes as those are invariably in the laps of the gods. What can be controlled is how we meet up to the challenge which means we must recognize the fact that we are being challenged in myriad ways every day of our lives. How many people, I ask, actually spot these challenges? The 'Religious Authorities' in the Ottawa Citizen are a good example of individuals who do although I wonder just how far their ministrations extend to their parishioners despite their good efforts...20% success rate?
(11) My experience with the job is that few people die from hard work; many die from stress related to the 'politics of the job'. For example, the early 40's are the 'ulcer belt' for aspiring executives for if they are passed over, they get shunted to the side. Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman is a classic story. I have known this type of salesperson...'It's the territory, you got to get the territory' which is exemplified by actor Lee J. Cobb in the original version (Dustin Hoffman in that role - as my late father would opine - couldn't sell guts to a hungry bear.) Of course 90% of executives never get their gold watch; it's a pyramid scheme. What they do get is an early grave.
(12) Good stress is a topic in itself but I realize space limits development of that theme.
'The Outlawed Canadian' www.employeescasecanada.com