Life is (and should be) all about the BENEFITS

Benefit:
Something that is advantageous or good; an advantage
(http://www.dictionary.com/)


When I started this blog in March of 2008, my first article (link is below) was entitled “Are you better of now than you were 4 years ago?” One of the questions I asked then was, “Are your finances better?” At that time, the global economy was much more positive than it is now. It has been a good year for some but many are hurting severely in one way or another particularly because of the financial crisis around the world in the last half of 2008.

(http://gswede-sunday.blogspot.com/2008/03/are-you-better-off-now-than-you-were-4.html)

A few of the reasons for the loss of investments (i.e. house/stocks) or retirement plans (i.e. 401k) this past year are lack of knowledge and carelessness. Maybe my philosophy of life being all about the benefits could have helped. If utilized properly, some individuals wouldn’t have ignored the 401k statements that typically come in the mail every 3 months thus losing major retirement funds or purchased a house they couldn’t afford thus losing the home or watched a stock investment plummet thus losing money.

The benefit of investing in the USA stock market is that over time it has proven to perform well for those who invest for the long term. Likewise, a house purchase within one’s budget is typically a wise investment. Where people tend to go wrong especially with retirement plans is that once they have invested, it is equally or more important to closely monitor it.

If one doesn’t monitor their retirement plan on a monthly basis and carefully choose what fund(s) to invest in or change to, where is the benefit?

Let me give you 2 examples:

1) A person I counsel on financial matters actually MADE a small profit in the last half of 2008. Why? He paid attention daily to his portfolio and heeded my advice to be in cash or risk adverse funds in the early part of the year. I sensed the economy was going downhill and told him so. In March of 2008, the majority of his investments were changed to reflect this so when the financial crisis hit, he was in a safe zone. What is the benefit? He didn’t lose any money and would have surely done so as the funds he was previously in (smart choices in a good economy) lost between 15-45%.

2) One of my mentors lost 15% of his retirement and he usually watches his portfolio like a hawk but admitted he was careless in the middle of 2008 and it cost him. One can never be careless when it comes to financial investments. That 15% won’t ruin his retirement but it has hurt his solid years of gains. What is the benefit? Although he was sloppy in not monitoring his plan for a short period, he was consistent most of the 2008 and in previous years so he didn’t get wiped out financially; something many can relate to.

As Americans (and many other countries; Iceland are you listening?) we have to “Stop Being Stupid” which is an appropriate message and the title of a great editorial from Bob Herbert of the New York Times. His words sum up beautifully what happens when we disregard the benefits in life. A few poignant paragraphs are below followed by the link to the article.

Somehow, over the past few decades, that has become the American way: to pay for things — from wars to Wall Street bonuses to flat-screen TVs to video games — with money that wasn’t there.

Something for nothing became the order of the day. You want to invade Iraq? Convince yourself that oil revenues out of Baghdad will pay for it. (Meanwhile, carve out another deficit channel in the federal budget.) You want to pump up profits in the financial sector? End the oversight and let the lunatics in the asylum run wild.

For those who wanted a bigger house in a nicer neighborhood, there were mortgages with absurdly easy terms. Credit-card offers came in the mail like confetti, and we used them like there was no tomorrow. For students stunned by the skyrocketing cost of tuition, there were college loans that could last a lifetime.

Money that wasn’t there.

Plenty of people managed their credit wisely. But much of the country, including many of the top government officials and financial titans who were supposed to be guarding the nation’s wealth, acted as if there would never be a day of reckoning, a day when — inevitably the soaring markets would crash and the bubbles explode.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/27/opinion/27herbert.html?_r=1&ref=opinion

How can we begin to change this often destructive pattern? One way is to simply THINK and question your intent before acting.

For 2009, a good question to ask before ANY important decision whether it be a stock, a new home, a car, acting on advice, giving advice, an investment, a donation, buying insurance, helping someone, driving in inclement weather, a vacation, a new babysitter for your child, a marriage, a relationship or anything that seems to good to be true……is:

“What is the Benefit?”-----
Every Action Should Have a Benefit.Translation: Everything you do in life whether big or small, important or less important should have a benefit. If not, why do it?

Keep in mind that not all benefits are good as some are pleasurable yet short term, negative or shallow (i.e. adultry or youth addicted to video games) and can damage you or your children significantly.

Life should provide benefits! How else does one learn, feel or gain insight, not to mention the thrill of receiving benefits? In addition, contemplating the benefits of an action before acting can make choices in life much easier.

To make it simple, write down the benefits and negatives before you make an important decision as that will give you some needed insight. We did exactly that with a good friend before he got married and the negatives were 3 times as long as the benefits! He got married anyway. The divorce was not long after. Our friend had a crystal clear list of what the benefits were and ignored them. Emotion clouded his judgement and it has cost him dearly but he deserves a little credit as he was at least willing to THINK about his decision beforehand.

I have frequently thought about the benefits of my actions before moving ahead. It has made my life less chaotic, easier, more exciting and free of damaging pitfalls. Have I made mistakes? Of course but they have primarily been on the side of responsibility and not irresponsibility. As a very dynamic man from Boston wrote to me after discussing this topic, “Why swim upstream, when you can float downstream?”

Below (in no particular order) are important areas where people tend to lose sight of or not think about the benefits of their actions.

A) Relationships – The common thread and irresponsible mistake is staying in relationships too long. Numerous friends and acquaintances have been in long term relationships or marriages that should have ended years before they did. Why stay in a 5 year relationship when it should have been over in 2? What is the benefit? In my book, there is none. All one does is waste time; time that could be spent experiencing life, enjoying a quality relationship or being alone. I understand some of the reasons why people do this but most are never worthwhile.

B) Marriage – In my opinion, a big reason why the majority of marriages fail is because people do not “choose wisely”. It is one of the most important decisions we will make in our lifetime and it must be treated that way. My article (Choosing Wisely for Marriage) can help avoid the disaster that marriage has become for many. The link is below. Remember, marriage is tough even when you pick the proper partner. What is the benefit if you don’t choose wisely? The best one can hope for is a decent marriage and the worst could be an abyss of unimaginable proportions like the aforementioned friend.

(http://gswede-sunday.blogspot.com/2008/03/choose-wisely-for-marriage.html)

C) Patience – I was an impatient person in my 20’s and it hurt me significantly at times including missed opportunities, mistakes at work and giving a bad impression. I worked to improve myself over the years with the help of authors I respect and mentors. Today, I am very satisfied with my level of patience. If you have kids, patience is truly a virtue. I see parents rushing due to kids misbehaving or being frustrated with their toddler’s attitude or not taking them outdoors because of the patience required to monitor a young child. This is not a good thing. Being impatient leads to stress which is a major cause of accidents with kids, cars, and a variety of other situations. Take the time to improve your patience.

D) Complaining – What is the benefit in complaining? Nothing. Some people have a reason to complain but choose not to and embrace the benefits they do have in life. Since I moved to Sweden, my career has been hurt tremendously because of the lack of business opportunities for foreigners. In addition, I cannot imagine a more conformist nation; with a capital city (Stockholm) that socially (to me) needs a major upgrade. Do I complain? Hardly ever because I live in a country that is one of the best in the world (healthcare, day-care, parental leave) for having children. My family is the priority so my benefits are abundant. What do I have to complain about?

E) Mistakes – During the roller coaster ride of life, one should try to make Responsible mistakes and avoid Irresponsible mistakes. Click on the link below about this topic.

(http://gswede-sunday.blogspot.com/2008/09/mistakes-responsible-or-irresponsible.html)

A Responsible mistake = One has thought through the consequences of an action beforehand; knows the worst possible outcome and is willing to live with the decision. One's life still can be damaged severely but at least there was serious thought and contemplation about the action. This kind of mistake can always be respected.

An Irresponsible mistake = An action where one just "throws caution to the wind" and gets moved by the emotion of the situation without any regard to the consequences. Acting without thought. People do get lucky and survive this mistake but invariably lives get damaged when irresponsibility rears its ugly head.

F) Trust - Why do people give blind trust in relationships or friendships? Most people in our world are good souls but there are evil, greedy, insecure, selfish or hateful individuals lurking amongst us so one must be careful. It is easy to take advantage of someone who hands over trust before getting to fully know a person. What is the benefit of doing that? Trust is something that should be earned. To do that, one must observe and monitor behavior intently to be sure that the person has your best interest in mind and is not out only for personal gain. I will be writing specifically on this topic in 2009.

G) Drama - If someone gives you drama (needless nagging, arguing, negativity, etc) in a relationship of any kind, for no good reason other than their own demons, selfishness or insecurity, where is the benefit? It is not your job to make someone else happy and wallowing in their misery is no way to live a quality life. Over the years, I have seen friends endure continuous drama in their lives but afraid to do anything about it. One has been married over 20 years with most of those years filled with major drama; some of which is hard to fathom. This friend (with a brilliant mind) lost what could have been a life filled with creativity and happiness. What is the benefit of that?

H) Emotion – One of my favorite topics and a must read if you have made irresponsible decisions based on emotion! Click on the following link to read, “Take the Emotion out of it”.

http://gswede-sunday.blogspot.com/2008/07/take-emotion-out-of-it.html

I) Money/Jobs/Business – Money is important in life but shouldn't rule one's way of thinking. Living life solely for the money can lead to a journey of few benefits down the road. One’s occupation or job is tough to comment on as there are many elements that cause people to do what they might not like. In general, I respect people who do what they love because the benefit is obvious. I even respect those who work mainly for the money as long as the rest of their life is balanced. There is no benefit in doing something you dislike or hate unless you have no choice or few options. One can easily lose their soul that way.

J) Friends - The benefits to having a good friend are trust, loyalty, encouragement, support, enhancement, and memorable times.....just to name a few. What I love about my friends is that they have the aforementioned criteria and enhance me by what I observe and learn from them. Diversity is usually the key to success with friendships. Also, you may have friends that rub others the wrong way but if they treat you well, you must respect that. Friends that don't have your best interests in mind should not be in your life.

K) Exercise – Americans and increasingly the youth in many parts of Europe are overweight. The plethora of weight loss and self-help books are a testament to that! In general, Swedish people take care of themselves but are getting fatter, especially our youth. One should exercise, eat properly and take care of the body in order to enjoy a long and healthy life. Life is much harder physically if there is no exercise involved. I also believe in quality relaxation like massage, meditation , jacuzzi, walks or any leisure activity where your mind can be totally calm. Taking care of YOU FIRST is important and exercise is a huge benefit in that regard.

L) Parents - It is a luxury to have good parents and an ideal childhood. I was fortunate in that regard along with some of my friends. Some aren't so lucky and let their parents or siblings drag their life down for years. I have seen both men and woman held hostage by the negativity or depression of their parents and never fully bloom to their potential which is very sad.

If one has experienced a bad childhood with parents that continue to negatively impact one’s progress in life, cutting off ties with them should be a consideration. Bad people or negative people (even if they are your parents!) should not be tolerated. Too many feel inclined to hold on to family ties even if it is dragging their life into the gutter. Where is the benefit in that case?

M) You are # 1 – If you are not, how can you live a good life or benefit others? People tend to forget that taking care of YOU FIRST is the most important thing in life. Living life for others or through others is a sure way to experience a HO HUM existence. There are many ways to achieve this no matter how busy you are in life. One is to act on a passion you have and make sure to do it every week if only for an hour. Surely you can spare an hour? You will be surprised how that one hour enhances your life. I have been thinking about starting a blog for years but never acted on it. I finally began it last year during one of the busiest times in my life and the benefits have been amazing!

What is the benefit of me writing a weekly blog?

There is no greater joy for my creativity, spirit and mind. I love to spread my wisdom (Gswedism I like to call it) via the written word in order to help others, encourage people or have someone look at an issue or life in a different way. We all need a push now and then and I'm hopeful that my knowledge and inspiration can be one of those pushes in helping someone lead a positive, productive and prosperous life.

I was fortunate to have a good father and am grateful for my mother being in good health. She is an inspiring mother and raised me with 3 important things; love, boundaries and discipline. In addition, I have great mentors, inspiring friends, an incredible wife and family along with sizzling life experiences. To not pass on some of that knowledge, especially to our youth, would be selfish. --

In 2009, some BENEFITS to my readers include topics on:

1) Networking Effectively – (Gswede Style)
2) Life being Difficult
3) Patience
4) Majors or Minors (What league do you play in?)
5) Music and Books
6) New York City
7) Family
8) Belgrade, Serbia
9) Mothers
10) Mentorship
11) Stockholm Beauty (Yes, I am talking about Swedish Women)
12) The 2 Best Salesman
13) Putting in the time
14) Remember, you’re the Parent!
15) Love at First Sight doesn’t Exist

Many years ago, I was telling a group of people my philosophy on benefits and some were not buying it. I believe they were apprehensive because they (like so many) didn’t understand or know how to go after the benefits and had seen or experienced situations in which people didn’t benefit. I said, “Just because people don’t benefit in a particular area, doesn’t mean that the benefit wasn’t there. It is always present if we are careful about our actions and look closely”.

To further challenge their thinking, I asked the group to name something in life that doesn’t have a benefit. The room was quiet.

One person said, “What about volunteering”? I couldn’t believe my ears as I knew this to be one of the most rewarding benefits!

In her defense, she was quite young and inexperienced so I nicely said to her, “I guess you haven’t volunteered as the benefits are enormous”. I also explained some ways that she could be involved in helping others. Hopefully, she acted on my words.

2009 is a crucial year in America and around the world. One way to evolve and BENEFIT as individuals, communities and countries is to make decisions that have thought behind them and are advantageous.

Try to keep this question top of mind before any action, “What is the Benefit”? If you do, your choices and life could flourish in ways you never thought possible.

Life is (and should be) all about the BENEFITS.

Happy 2009 and Happy Gswede Sunday!


The BENEFIT of taking a little time to relax is important - An Easter weekend outside of Stockholm, Sweden -

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