Always have a Backup

The title of this article is yet another Gswedism, practical in nature but frequently overlooked.

This philosophy can be misunderstood but is sorely needed to be understood. Many go through life "breezily" or "happy go lucky" as if everything will go as planned not really thinking about the inevitable tough times, curves in the road or potential tragedy. A backup can be instrumental when your world encounters an obstacle.

My definition for "Always have a Backup":

For anything important in life, one should "Always have a Backup" in case that element is damaged, lost, ruined or killed. It can be as minor as backing up the phone numbers on your cellular phone or as major as having a plan (backup) in place if a spouse dies.

We all have important aspects in life that are dear to us. Some of the common areas where I have seen the lack of a backup are home, occupation, financial, business, lifestyle, relationships and marriage.

Let's examine a few:

1) Married/Committed - If married, one should be faithful. Period. Although, a man should be able to develop relationships outside of marriage to learn, evolve, and enjoy the friendship (backup) of other women or in a woman's case, another man. These friendships should be nurtured like a typical male/male or female/female friendship and in case of tragedy these backups will prove invaluable.

Why do so many men and woman lose or not build friendships with the opposite sex once they settle down or get married? My friendships with women have helped me immensely in ways that a male friendship could never live up to. To have quality same gender and opposite gender friendships is the ultimate luxury for prospering and living a well-rounded life.

2) Money - Having a backup in finance means never putting all your money in one investment even if it is a high flying company like Apple. I knew a woman who over a ten year period ONLY put her money into her company's stock. It seemed a wise decision until the fortune's of the company changed. She lost 80% of her investment.

Diversification is crucial when investing and if you are in the stock market, a portfolio must be watched at least once a week. Being diversified means that when a stock/investment is doing poorly, one always has another one (backup) to rely on. I firmly believe that it should not be difficult to build a quality portfolio if you diversify and have a backup.

3) Work - As the saying goes, "you should be looking for a job as soon as you start a new job". This is wise advice because if you don't at a minimum have opportunities in the pipeline and your job ends, where's the backup? That doesn't mean that a person should spend 25% of the time looking for a new job and not focusing on the goals of the current job. But it does mean that serious and consistent effort must be put into looking at other opportunities to be ahead of the game.

Entrepreneurs should be expanding (backup) so that they don't rely on one niche/area for profits. Google could have remained comfortable and relied solely on the revenue from their advertisements but they knew that wasn't smart. They have expanded magnificently and now have numerous backups in their business.

4) Life Changes - For a major life change like taking on a new job or moving abroad, a backup should be top of mind. People enjoy taking risks and that is okay but for quality of life, a backup is a must. If you move anywhere, make sure to have a place to return if things don't work out. In addition, try to keep your life equal or better in any location move.

Taking on a new job with the same pay or perks can be dangerous. It's worth the risk if you feel fairly secure in accepting a new job and your old job is ending but it is always wiser to get a significant increase in pay or perks (backup) for any job change.

5) Write things down - In any business/important situation (corporate, private or entrepreneur) you should always write things down (backup) and not haphazardly. Write down names, times, people in the room and exactly what is said as best as you can. Done properly, one can gain an edge, clarify or right a wrong if needed.

6) Home - Do you have a safe at home for jewelry, valuables or important items/documents? If not, why not? A robbery or fire could ruin the things you treasure in an instant. Anything important to you should be locked in a fireproof safe in your home or in a safe deposit box outside the home. At the very least, effectively hiding your valuables is a smart move.

7) Parent - If your parent gets sick and needs 24 hour care or is incapable of relying on self, who is going to be responsible for organizing the care for that parent? If you have brothers and sisters, that person(s) should be known to all. Having a backup in case a parent gets ill and cannot function independently is very important.

If you're an only child, make sure that you or someone you trust is prepared to step in to make sure the parent is properly cared for. If one or all siblings live far away from the parent, someone living in the town of the parent should be designated as primary contact.

8) Losing a loved one - If tragedy strikes in the form of losing a child, spouse or parent, one has to be ready with a plan. It can happen to anyone as it did to a friend of mine with two small children who lost his wife last year. The plan can be as practical as having a person(s) to spend time with during the grieving process or having a relationship with a professional life coach/therapist that can be there for you in your time of need. One must have a strong support system (backup) nearby just in case.

In addition, part of that plan is knowing the person's information for all financial elements (401ks, insurance, debts,etc) and miscellaneous items (wishes or requests like organ donation,etc) so as to NOT rush around figuring these things out AFTER a tragedy. The more you know about a loved one before death, the easier the transition and grieving process will be.

9) Miscellaneous Backups

-- Cellular phones - At least 3 times a year, I get an email from a friend saying that they lost their mobile phone and asking for my information. What a major inconvenience for the friend and a waste of my time. Why don't more people back up the numbers on their phone via computer and print it out? It is simple to do and the worry of losing a phone is taken away.

-- Keys - An extra set should always be at the home of a person nearby like a close friend or relative. If you are locked out or lose your keys, you want a quick way to get back in.

-- Renters Insurance - I have come across educated people that didn't have renters insurance. Most people don't get robbed but what if you do? What backup do you have for the losses of a robbery? And let's not forget the possibility of fire destroying you entire apartment. Get insurance if you are a renter. You might never need it but if you get robbed, you will be thankful for the backup.

-- Pictures - It's smart to backup all pictures on an external hard drive or DVD but what if they get stolen or are lost in a fire? The pictures are gone forever. An additional back is to keep them online either free or with a site that stores pictures. Google has a wonderful free service that holds thousands of pictures with each email (called gmail) address and there are quality sites that charge a nominal fee for storage. This way, one never has to worry about losing personal pictures and an added bonus is that you will be able to access them anywhere in the world with a computer.

-- Wallet - Make a list of what is in your wallet and update it at least every 3 months. Write down every important card or piece of information you have in your wallet. If it is lost or stolen, it is much easier to go directly to the list to call and cancel cards. When I ask people to tell me what is in their wallet, they always miss one or two important cards. That omission could allow a thief to charge, charge, charge.

-- Will - Do you have one? Is it updated? Why would you risk your money or valuables going to someone else or the government instead of those you care about and love? An ex girlfriend told me after her wealthy uncle died, "yes, he had a will but he hadn't updated it in 20 years". She went on to say that the family had to pay a couple hundred thousand dollars of his money because he failed to update it.

It's not enough to only have a will but you should update it at least every 5-7 years. Attitudes, people and feelings change over time and you want to make sure that what you stated on your will years ago, is still what you desire.

10) Review backups consistently throughout every year of your life.

I could go on about the "Backup" subject but I hope you get the point. Focus on improving in some of the aforementioned areas where you don't have quality backups.

Backups are practical, offer great rewards, make life easier and show that an individual cares about his or her well being. Life is tough enough at times for everyone so thinking about and getting a backup for those things you deem important is vital.

A question to always keep top of mind.:

What or Who is your Backup?

Happy Gswede Sunday!

The 2001 "Three Musketeers" spending quality time in New England, USA. As you can see, at least one of us had a backup in case of trouble!

7 Favorite Quotes

Below are 7 of my favorite quotes.

I think about or refer to them consistently which helps to give my day a jolt of inspiration.

If one follows the wisdom of the 7 combined, it is easy to visualize an invigorating, well-rounded and interesting life.

Number 4 is my favorite. It has been that way since my collegiate days (English major) where I first caught the bug for pen and pad.

Happy Gswede Sunday!


When the minds eye rests on objects illuminated by truth and reality, it understands and comprehends them, and functions intelligently.


I have always tried to keep my world based in Truth and Reality and have encouraged others to do so. Sometimes it can be a struggle but time and time again, those two words have kept me grounded, acting intelligently and functioning cohesively.


Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.

--Martin Luther King

I am moved every time I think about or hear Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. These words are not from that speech but resonate with me just as profoundly as people who serve, help others and give of themselves are the true hero's in our world.


A thought which does not result in an action is nothing much, and an action which does not proceed from a thought is nothing at all.

-- Georges Bernanos

A wonderful quote to review if only to spark an action. Many are guilty of worthwhile thoughts that bear no fruit because of inaction thus lost opportunities. Actions made that have no thought beforehand are irresponsible.


A thing of beauty is a joy forever: Its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness; but still will keep a bower quiet for us, and a sleep full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

-- John Keats ( from "A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever" in Book 1 of Endymion)

If you don't read poetry, John Keats is a fine place to start. I love this passage! If you have a "Thing of Beauty" in your life, this quote should sooth your soul. My wife is "A Thing of Beauty".


Run from anything that gives you evil thoughts.....but stay close to anything that makes you want to do right.

-- 2 Timothy 2:22 (Living Bible)

A straight forward and pure quote. We all face temptation (see April Article on the subject) throughout our lives and it is crucial to THINK first before making irresponsible mistakes that could hurt, disgrace or ruin your life. Thinking of your family before you act on temptation might help.


Wherever you are it is your friends who make your world.

-- William James

My friends have made my life interesting, fun, challenging and hopeful. Any success I have enjoyed would be lessened without my invaluable friendships.


The antidote to envy is one's own work. Always one's own work. Not the thinking about it. Not the assessing of it. But the doing of it.

--Bonita Friedman

Envy can prevent people from making the impact they desire in life. Remember, any person you envy usually has DONE the hard work necessary to be successful.

Fresh snow is a "Thing of Beauty". Winter of 2006 in Stockholm, Sweden (above and below)

Has Marriage been your Best Decision?

The most important decision we make in life is who we choose to marry. The choice should be carefully and thoroughly evaluated as well as based in reality, not emotional fantasy since very few of us lead fairytale lives.

Having been a student (observing, questioning, listening and learning) of marriage while I was single, I knew what I wanted, seldom wasted time with unproductive relationships and was as ready as one can be for what I considered a 25% chance of finding someone that was a good match for me.

Thankfully, fortune smiled on me.

When I met my wife, I could sense the sweetness in her soul and I knew in my heart that I wanted to explore and learn more about her. We were both fortunate to have that moment when we knew a life together could happen. From that time, a magnificent love has blossomed in ways I could have never imagined.

We just celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. It has been a very enjoyable and most interesting five years living in America and Sweden. Our GOOD LIFE has been full of joy, sadness, love, challenges, hard work, fitness, tragedy, happiness, perseverance, fun, wisdom, learning, travel experiences, comfort, compassion, satisfaction, pressure, trust, disappointment and creativity.

The main reason I was able to enjoy our good times and sensibly cope in the tough times is because I "Chose Wisely for Marriage" (see March archives). As the years went by, I realized that I was a very blessed man.

Marrying my wife was the best and most important decision I ever made.

Here are 10 (of many) reasons why:

1) Trust – I evaluated in this area completely and my wife earned my trust rather quickly. I trust her implicitly. This element was the most important criteria for my decision to marry. One should never blindly give trust to someone. Unfortunately, so many do and suffer consequences. If trust is not at the top of your list, it should be close.

2) Love and Like – Not only do I love my wife deeply but I like, respect and admire her as a person. When life presents the inevitable challenges, that foundation of Love and Like helps immensely.

3) Lets "Me be Me" – I never have to act differently whether I am alone with her, meeting new people or with work colleagues. She lets Me be Me! When people cannot be themselves in all situations around their spouse, there is usually a problem.

4) Takes care of me the way I wanted and expected – This area is hard to explain but everyone should know how they want to be treated and taken care of in a marriage. If you don't know that, you are likely not to know what you want (qualities/characteristics) in a potential spouse which makes "Choosing Wisely" very difficult.

5) Good Mother – After meeting my wife's loving and warm mother, I knew that the acclamation to motherhood would be fairly easy for her. She impresses me in this area daily. Our son is very fortunate for her comforting ways.

6) Lived abroad – Anyone who lives outside of their birth country for a significant time is generally more interesting and usually has a more well-rounded sensibility for life and the world. Her diversity (lived in Japan, USA and Sweden) is enthralling.

7) Smart, Dynamic and Ambitious – Enough said. She keeps me on my toes constantly and pushes me to do better in a variety of areas which I appreciate!

8) Fitness is a Priority – She inspires me often in this area and has always worked to maintain her body and health. During her first pregnancy, she was swimming the day before she gave birth. One's health should be priority # 1.

9) Close friends – My wife has numerous close friends and I enjoy the company of most. It is critical to have a life outside of one's main family and quality friends are an invaluable part of that life.

10) Family comes FIRST – This should go without saying as one's immediate family should always come first. Some never get this right and give preference to mothers, sisters, brothers, fathers, etc and disrespect their spouse or ruin their marriage. My son and I are the most important two people in her life.

I have 45 more years to hopefully reach that Golden 50th anniversary with my wife. I plan to enjoy every moment of the journey.

If you are married, has your choice been your best decision?

If you are getting married in the near future, have you "Taken the Emotion out of it" (see July archives) and based your decision in reality?

If you are not married, are you confident that one day your choice will be a wise one?

If you answered NO to any of the aforementioned questions, I encourage you to have a serious conversation with yourself and ask the hard questions like "How do I REALLY want to live my life"? Am I having fun or just grinding through life? Do I want to grow old being unhappy most of the time?

Even a good marriage presents tough life challenges as I pointed out above with the descriptive elements of our 5 years. To endure an "unhappy or miserable" marriage, the fun of life remains elusive and life often goes by quite painfully.

If you have made an unwise marriage choice or are about to, don't be afraid to do the work necessary to improve your life and/or relationship. We all know in our hearts where we want to be as a couple but many are simply afraid to act, thus allowing their happiness to keep slipping further and further away.

Time is of the essence. Grab that slice of life you desire and deserve before the clock stops ticking!

Happy Gswede Sunday!

My Best and Most Important Decision

Equal or better, Preferably BETTER

Relationships are fascinating to me primarily because of how many people don't succeed by not "Choosing Wisely" (see March archives), therefore failing miserably or at a minimum wasting precious time.
One philosophy that can help improve relationships is "Equal or Better, Preferably Better".

Give some thought to this Gswede term when searching for or considering a potential spouse. Some may find this philosophy hard to digest (reality is often that way) but have faith and read on.

Definition for Equal or Better, Preferably Better:
To consider someone for relationships/marriage ONLY if they are equal or better to your qualities and/or characteristics as an individual. That doesn't mean that everything has to be the same but overall, she/he should be on a level playing field with you. Equal is the lowest you should accept. Ideally, the person should be BETTER so that you can learn from them and have even more power and strength as a couple which will help immensely in the inevitable tough times.

Do not take the word "better" as a negative. It just means that the person has more positives and strengths and brings that to the relationship which is a good thing.

Why is the term so important?

Because successful relationships/marriages I have witnessed all have couples that are similar overall (particularly in background, ambition, and values) yet different enough to be exciting. Yes, opposites do attract but that is for short term dating not long term relationships or marriage.

A hypothetical example:
Mrs. X is successful in business, charming, ambitious, attractive, has the proper values and a strong family. She should ONLY consider someone that has similar qualities/characteristics. A potential Mr. X doesn't have to be charming but he might be calmer. Mr. X doesn't have to come from a strong family like hers but maybe he is an successful entrepreneur that has more time for the family than most men. Mr. X is an attractive, ambitious man with good values. Like the X's, when the comparisons are made, the couple should be more similar than dissimilar.

A friend's marriage demise:
This friend met a woman and admitted early on that she was not someone he thought was good for him. He should have listened to his inner voice. He is a sailor, golfer, athlete and lover of the outdoors. She doesn't like any of those things and makes it difficult for him to enjoy them alone. She is high maintenance and he is not therefore he is constantly trying to please her. The only real similarity is that they are both smart; other than that they couldn't be more different. His mistake was not choosing someone "equal or better, preferably better". I like her but she is not right for him and vice versa. They were struggling mightily before they had a baby including major drama weeks before the child was born. From my perspective, it is just a matter of time before they separate or divorce.

This philosophy can be hard to implement at times as some present themselves superbly but behind the facade is a completely different person.

A true example of how appeal can be misleading:
My friend met a woman and fell in love. Her family was not cohesive and her intentions were misguided. He trusts and loves easily and she went after him intently. Everyone he knew could see this and thought it wouldn't work including his own mother. He knew nothing about her history and really didn't care. She appeared to be "equal or better, preferably better" on the outside; great job, family oriented, attractive and charming just like him. They got married and had a child. The marriage was over in 2 years. This is a case of all emotion and no reality. My "Take the emotion out of it" (July archives) might have helped him avoid this costly mistake.

A TIP for Men in the "Equal or Better" search: Don't be afraid of a woman that may have more ambition or is doing better in business or is the sole bread winner. That kind of "better" is positive. One of my dearest male friends is a stay at home dad with a wife who makes the money for the family; they are one of the strongest couples I know. Also, looks are important but NOT the most important.

A TIP for Women in the "Equal or Better" search: Give the man a chance that may not be where he wants to be in life or is not that charming but is a good man with positive values. And sometimes NICE GUYS are just that, nice guys and deserve your respect. I have seen nice men get taken advantage of because they were simply to pleasing. (So men, be nice but don't over do it to the point of irritation).

Aim high for "Equal or better, preferably better" if you want to be successful in the often difficult relationship road. Even if you find someone that appears to be in that category, do your research on the person by adhering to my "Choose Wisely" and "Take the Emotion out of it" principles. One must dig deep and consider all elements about a person before letting them into your life. To do that, you need the courage and skill to see the true REALITY of the situation.

This philosophy has served me well particularly after my 30th birthday when I had the focused wisdom to know what was best for me to succeed. No years and very little time were wasted with unproductive relationships which I am grateful for.

I encourage you to learn and engage more in the relationship arena by reading, listening, observing, questioning and being curious. How else does one learn? My thirst for education never stops and never will!

My wife is an amazing and beautiful woman but I might have missed the opportunity to meet her if I didn't have my priorities straight by only letting woman into my life that were "Equal or better, preferably better".

Happy Gswede Sunday!
This Gangster of Love has 2 quality choices in his search for "Equal or Better, preferably Better".
(Gswede's private 2006 Halloween party in Stockholm, Sweden)

Fitness Inspiration from a Frenchman

Inspiration grabs me many times during the year but not often in the health and fitness category so this was a pleasant surprise!

On a recent trip to the south of France, I spent a few days with a Frenchman (and his family) from Paris who inspired me to improve my fitness regime. I run throughout the year but not on a consistent basis unlike when I was preparing for the 2005 and 2006 Stockholm marathon. I am always in good shape but would like to be in great shape.

I started to be more consistent during my summer vacation by running on average 5 miles (8 kilometers) every other day for two weeks. I feel great and am heading in the right direction. A day after having a late dinner with the Frenchman, he did a 2 hour run with his dog which is a typical weekend routine. A few days later he biked 25 miles (40 kilometers) up and down the hills of Provence.

Here are a few of his physical accomplishments and exercises:

1) Ran the Paris Marathon in 3:59 (although had to walk for 30 minutes so it would have been better)

2) Climbed Mont Blanc in France but had to stop close to the top because the guide said it was too dangerous. He would have easily made it in ideal conditions.

3) Swims during the week and runs during the weekend.

4) Rides his bike (racing and mountain) during the year.

His health regime is similar with low sugar products, organic foods, minimum alcohol and moderate food consumption. Even his beer is organic and was quite good! There in no fat on his 38 year old, 6'5 (197 cm) body.

The French are not exactly known for their fitness but he is an aberration. Ironically, the people in France smoke more than Americans, exercise less, drink more and eat foods rich in calories (wine, cheese, baguettes, pastries and pate) but LIVE LONGER! They must be doing something right.

As I said in my first Gswede Sunday message, inspiration comes in many forms and his was the encouragement I needed to do more and realize my goal of getting in great shape. In addition, he gave me some great tips on how to improve my exercise.

If you consider yourself in good shape, do your best to be consistent and even improve your workouts. If you are not, do something about it. Working out and eating properly will make you feel better and give you more energy not to mention the fact that you will probably live longer.

To be in good running shape, you should be able to run a half-marathon, 13 miles (20.9 k) in 2 hours or less comfortably ANY day of the year. If you cannot run, walking is a great option as it has many aesthetic and physical benefits.

A famous and multi-talented American musician was in Stockholm last year and invited a good friend of mine to his concert and private party. He was asked by my friend, "what is the most important thing to you"? His answer was "my health" which was surprising coming from a man with an enormous schedule around the world, immense popularity and numerous temptations.

He and the Frenchman have their health priorities on the right track.

I am inspired by both.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

The Frenchman being sprayed by his 3 year old daughter. Seeing her eyes light up when they are together leaves no doubt as to the dedicated father he is as well.