Don't Worry so Much, Have Fun......Like a Child

I used to worry unnecessarily in my early twenties.

Whether it was my job, career, or a relationship,etc...too much time was spent worrying about things (happening or not happening) instead of acting on what I wanted to grab from life. When I think back to those years directly after college, there was a lack of sparkle in my life, stress was prevalent and my career wasn't moving in the direction I desired. Needless to say, I could have had more fun as well. Maybe that is a typical characteristic in one's early adult years although it need not be as some of my close friends had thriving lives that were full of gusto.

Fortunately, I quickly discovered that worrying is a time waster and stress inducer. Around 25, worrying left my being and thus began a beautiful rise to a life and career I am proud of today.

There was no particular moment that was the catalyst for me to change, only my desire to start heading toward my dreams. I knew that if I didn't act, I could fall victim to a Ho Hum sort of life - a life I would have been gravely disappointed in after my terrific childhood and exciting college years.

In addition, I have always loved children and enjoyed teaching them when I was a substitute teacher. The beauty of interacting with and opening up your heart to children is that their joy and worry free lives are infectious, so much so that one usually forgets their problems if only for a few moments. I have met numerous people who have lost the glowing smile and happiness they probably had as a child; most likely due to an abundance of stress and worry.

Some of the best moments of my life have occurred when I put the setbacks of the day aside and let the child-like feeling take over! Releasing a bit of the "child in you" on a daily basis will undoubtedly help to ease some of life's challenges and obstacles.

I implore you to listen to the beautiful song, "With a Child's Heart". The words remind us to embrace our inner child. The beginning verses are below along with the link to the entire lyrics.

With a child’s heart
Go face the worries of the day
With a child’s heart
Turn each problem into play
No need to worry
No need to fear
Just being alive
Makes it all so very clear

With a child’s heart

Nothing can ever get you down
With a child’s heart
You’ve got no reason to frown
Love is as welcome
As a sunny, sunny day
No grown up thoughts
To lead our hearts astray

Life should be about having as much fun as you can on a daily basis despite one's circumstances. I understand that it's not always easy to do but FUN TIME is a goal of mine every day. If one worries to much, the fun in life will most likely remain elusive.

One of my favorite quotes:

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
--Mathew 6:34 (New International Version)

Remember the following words and try to embrace them daily:

Don't Worry so Much, Have Fun.......Like a Child.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

This 5th grade class was an absolute joy to teach in Stockholm, Sweden! Their enthusiasm and thirst for learning was heart warming.

Thinking of and Praying for a Woman I Never Met

I heard a story a while back that went to the core of my being, stayed in my head and probably always will.

A close friend of the family told us about her good friend losing a baby in the 35 week of pregnancy. It was to be her first child. After hearing this tragic story, I began thinking of and praying for this woman. I cannot imagine a pain deeper than losing a child - I suspect the strong impact came from my wife being pregnant when we heard this news.

I made a point to keep in touch now and then with our close friend to see how the woman was coping and she was kind enough to keep me informed. During that time, my prayers were for her to make peace with the tragedy, begin healing and start the process of creating another life. When I received the positive news about her being pregnant, it warmed my heart. With all the daily challenges in life, it couldn't have been easy to muster the strength to move forward and get pregnant again.

I'm a firm believer in the power of positive thinking and energy towards another person(s), whether you know them or not. The loss of a child before birth has happened to several friends and each time, my thoughts and compassion were consistent on their behalf.

As men, we can never fully appreciate the dedication and hard work that goes into carrying and delivering a baby. What we can do is make sure that we show love and compassion for our women during this precious time. In addition, it's important to remember to be compassionate (both men and women) towards those who have had difficult or tragic pregnancies.

Earlier this month, I was sitting on the couch relaxing and received a text/sms message on my mobile phone. It was our close friend with words that brought a smile to my face.

She told us that her friend had delivered a healthy baby girl!

What a beautiful start to 2010.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

A beautiful summer view in southern Sweden.

Haiti - Some Positives in this Horrific Tragedy

As the details of the earthquake in Haiti unfolded, I (and I suspect many) were glued to the TV or Internet in order to get a sense of the devastation. It was difficult to watch the dead bodies in the street or the corpses being loaded on a dump truck. And to know that thousands were crushed instantly due to poorly built buildings is unimaginable. Since Haiti has endured so much tragedy, poverty and corruption over the years, it seems unfair that something like this would happen. Yet as we know, life isn't always fair and all we can do is look for the bright spots and do our part to help our brothers and sisters in Haiti.

I tend to look for the positives in most situations and witnessed some shining moments as I was watching the news coverage. There was a two week old baby whose mother had been killed - they thought the baby might have a serious head injury but she didn't and was okay. Also, a young girl had her leg stuck in the rubble for hours yet she survived after they cut through the concrete - they weren't sure if they could save her leg. Another man said, "I don't care about my house, I am happy to be alive" - his wife and children were in good condition as well.

One of the most touching and beautiful scenes occurred while watching CNN. Hundreds if not thousands of people were chanting "Amen, Amen, Amen" while running through the streets. Despite not having a home and living outside, they were able to muster the energy to sing praise to the lord. It was an inspiring sight!

It's a wonderful thing that so much aid is now flowing to Haiti although the most important issue is to make sure that the country is rebuilt better and stronger than before. Not many people cared about this country pre-earthquake and I hope that is not the case ten years from now.

Columnist David Brooks from the NY times wrote an insightful article recently called, "The Underlying Tragedy". He writes about how fighting global poverty has been insufficient and what might be done to bring about real change in poor countries like Haiti. Below are four truths he mentions.

The first of those truths is that we don’t know how to use aid to reduce poverty. Over the past few decades, the world has spent trillions of dollars to generate growth in the developing world. The countries that have not received much aid, like China, have seen tremendous growth and tremendous poverty reductions. The countries that have received aid, like Haiti, have not.

The second hard truth is that micro-aid is vital but insufficient. Given the failures of macrodevelopment, aid organizations often focus on microprojects. More than 10,000 organizations perform missions of this sort in Haiti. By some estimates, Haiti has more nongovernmental organizations per capita than any other place on earth. They are doing the Lord’s work, especially these days, but even a blizzard of these efforts does not seem to add up to comprehensive change.

Third, it is time to put the thorny issue of culture at the center of efforts to tackle global poverty. Why is Haiti so poor? Well, it has a history of oppression, slavery and colonialism. But so does Barbados, and Barbados is doing pretty well. Haiti has endured ruthless dictators, corruption and foreign invasions. But so has the Dominican Republic, and the D.R. is in much better shape. Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the same island and the same basic environment, yet the border between the two societies offers one of the starkest contrasts on earth — with trees and progress on one side, and deforestation and poverty and early death on the other.

As Lawrence E. Harrison explained in his book “The Central Liberal Truth,” Haiti, like most of the world’s poorest nations, suffers from a complex web of progress-resistant cultural influences. There is the influence of the voodoo religion, which spreads the message that life is capricious and planning futile. There are high levels of social mistrust. Responsibility is often not internalized. Child-rearing practices often involve neglect in the early years and harsh retribution when kids hit 9 or 10. We’re all supposed to politely respect each other’s cultures. But some cultures are more progress-resistant than others, and a horrible tragedy was just exacerbated by one of them.

Fourth, it’s time to promote locally led paternalism. In this country, we first tried to tackle poverty by throwing money at it, just as we did abroad. Then we tried microcommunity efforts, just as we did abroad. But the programs that really work involve intrusive paternalism.

My good friend Manfred is Haitian and was the toastmaster (master of ceremonies) at my wedding. He has been a tremendous friend and my first thoughts were of him and his family. Fortunately, his dad was unharmed although the family home or what Manfred called the "fortress" was leveled in the earthquake. Thankfully, his uncle was recently found after his whereabouts were unknown for a few days. Manfred has been an inspiration in directing those concerned about his family towards ways in which they could contribute or donate to those Haitians less fortunate.

I like the no nonsense approach David Brooks writes about in the aforementioned article. His advice is below:

These programs, like the Harlem Children’s Zone and the No Excuses schools, are led by people who figure they don’t understand all the factors that have contributed to poverty, but they don’t care. They are going to replace parts of the local culture with a highly demanding, highly intensive culture of achievement — involving everything from new child-rearing practices to stricter schools to better job performance.

It’s time to take that approach abroad, too. It’s time to find self-confident local leaders who will create No Excuses countercultures in places like Haiti, surrounding people — maybe just in a neighborhood or a school — with middle-class assumptions, an achievement ethos and tough, measurable demands.

The late political scientist Samuel P. Huntington used to acknowledge that cultural change is hard, but cultures do change after major traumas. This earthquake is certainly a trauma. The only question is whether the outside world continues with the same old, same old.

The question is, "Will we see the NO EXCUSE approach and REAL LEADERSHIP in Haiti along with CONSISTENT ACTION from the world for Haiti or will it be "business as usual" in a few years?

I am hopeful for the former.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Gswede enjoyed spending time with some locals in Gambia, Africa. Despite the poverty, there were an abundance of happy faces.

BIG BANK or Community Bank?

It seems that not enough Americans are mad enough or doing anything about the way in which the USA government has protected several large financial institutions from bankruptcy in recent years. These organizations played a major role in fueling the current economic crises and a few have already risen back to strong profits while many American taxpayers are suffering immensely. What a shame.

Here's a snapshot of the last few years:

-- Large financial institutions (including numerous banks) made foolish and risky investments with borrowed money. Because of this recklessness, it was clear that many couldn't recover financially as the losses were too substantial.

-- When some of the major companies had no where to turn for help, the USA government proclaimed that they were "to big to fail".

-- The government protected some of the biggest names by "bailing them out" - or in plain terms, giving them billions of dollars to ensure that they could keep their doors open.

-- This "bailout" came at the expense of the American taxpayer.

-- Some of these organizations had great financial years in 2009. In addition, some have given their top management large bonuses.

-- These organizations don't seem to have any restrictions imposed on them by the government so that they don't make the same mistakes again. How ridiculous!

-- In summary, the lesson learned is that it is okay to fail because the American Taxpayer will be there to back you up!

Read the paragraph below and click on the link from the NY Times to get the full story:

This year, compensation will again eat up much of Wall Street’s revenue. During the first nine months of 2009, five of the largest banks that received federal aid — Citigroup, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley — together set aside about $90 billion for compensation. That figure includes salaries, benefits and bonuses, but at several companies, bonuses make up more than half of compensation.

The American taxpayer hasn't been so fortunate:

-- Millions have lost untold amounts of money due to the financial crisis.

--Millions of Americans are unemployed or underemployed.

-- Unemployment is at a staggering 10% the last time I checked.

--The number of home foreclosures in the last few years is horrendous.

--After all of the above, the taxpayer is responsible for bailing out the organizations that created this financial tsunami!

Could I paint the picture any clearer?

Since there seems to be a severe lack of inaction at this injustice, let me suggest a way to show some ACTION in order to improve your financial future.

The advice is simple - Consider moving your money from that BIG BANK to a local/community bank or credit union.

Here's why:

At these local/community banks, the service is much better, the lending is easier and they usually don't make those risky investments with your money so your funds will be more secure. I speak from experience as I have always banked on the local level as I knew the attention and ease I received from the beginning could never be matched by these mammoth banks with thousands of employees. In addition, I have encouraged friends and acquaintances to make the move before the economic crisis hit and I am sure some of them wished that they had.

An insightful friend sent out an email to his readers about this timely subject. After visiting the site ( and watching a wonderful video, he inspired me to put my pen to paper on this important subject. You will find a portion of his email below.

This email will be short and concise. A good friend recently shared a video with me called “Move Your Money” produced by Economist Robert Johnson, columnist Arianna Huffington, and filmmaker Eugene Jarecki. It’s a short video about looking into the possibility of moving your money from a large bank and putting it into a community bank. I have a very good friend who actually only banks with a credit union.

You be the judge when you see this video, but as for me, I will continue to look into this issue as a serious option to consider as I continue to spread the message about the need for economic reform. More about my findings in a future email.

If your financial acumen isn't where you would like it to be or you simply want to enhance your financial opportunities, I implore you to do three things:

1) Read my article from October of 2008. It is called "World Financial Crisis - are you swimming or sinking? The link is below.

2) Study, Read and Learn as much as you can about investing and building the financial future that you desire. In my opinion, it is not difficult to grow your money year after year if you CARE ENOUGH to do the preparation and upkeep required. In addition, it's important to surround yourself with people who are good investors and have proven track records of success.

3) Consider the move to a community oriented bank.

The aforementioned "move your money" website provides the information you need to get started. If you do, you will be pleasantly surprised with the experience (i.e. better customer service) and will probably wonder why you never considered one in the first place. I cannot recall a moment while doing business at the local level where I encountered serious problems or disappointments. If there was an issue, it was dealt with by at least one person (sometimes several) promptly and a solution was worked out quickly.

Most of the people I know lost money during the last few years of the financial crisis. If you fall into that category, it's imperative that you take control of your financial destiny to prevent a repeat in the future. You should and can be the "master of your own economic reform" - all it takes is a bit of common sense, preparation and the willingness to keep a close eye on your entire portfolio of finances.

Don't procrastinate . ACT.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Few things in winter compare to late afternoon sledding with your son. A brilliant hour of joy in Stockholm.

A Voice of Reason

Consider yourself fortunate if you have a friend who is a "A Voice of Reason" when challenges emerge, advice is needed or temptations arise.

I wonder how many of us have a friend we can turn to for wise, bold or dependable counsel (a voice of reason) on a variety of life issues - a friend that gives you sound advice ... advice that you might not want to hear.

I have several friends who have been and still are my voices of reason. Even though I have exhibited responsible behavior throughout my life, I occasionally need a voice to tell me the truth about a situation (business or personal), give me an opinion on a subject/friendship or be bold enough to step in when my words or actions may be inappropriate.

Three of many "voice" moments are below:

1) I was seriously considering taking a job that had many perks yet presented some challenges that could possibly affect the rest of my career. A voice of reason from Washington, DC explained to me in great detail why I should think about NOT taking the job. I am thankful I didn't as it wouldn't have been a wise career move.

2) In the early 1990's, I was impatient and rude with a dry cleaning employee and my friend Sean scolded me on the spot. He knew my actions weren't fair and unbecoming of me. That moment changed my patience level immensely. After years of hard work and discipline, I am proud of my patient nature today.

3) When I was single, I dated a woman for less than 6 months who was unlike any of the women I had dated previously. The relationship was a bit out of my comfort zone although I was enjoying it. One night in a restaurant, a good friend whispered in my ear (with the woman nearby), "You know that you won't marry her". His words were unexpected but had a profound impact on me as deep down I knew that myself yet hearing it from a friend made me think about the relationship in a different perspective. Not long after our conversation, I ended the relationship which was a very good thing.

In addition, I have been a voice of reason for several friends. The advice I give or am asked to give is on subjects including but not limited to relationships/marriage, finances, emotion, health, volunteering and responsible behavior.

A) I have a wonderful friend who is married to a dynamic man yet it might not have happened if it wasn't for her voices of reason. I was one of those voices and told her in a direct manner what I thought of her boyfriend (high praise) and that she probably wouldn't find anyone more suitable for her. I never told her what to do regarding marriage but I did give her valuable advice so that she could make the best decision for her future. The couple is doing extremely well and is one of the happier couples I know.

B) Another friend succeeded famously when he boldly moved to Europe in the early 1990's yet lost his way (with irresponsible behavior) when he tried to tackle the Big Apple during the last decade. He had many opportunities to make a breakthrough in New York City (NYC) yet always fell flat. I (and others) advised him to leave NYC years ago but the city was too intoxicating for him and the downward spiral continued. He finally left Manhattan this past year and his voices of reason (me included) played an invaluable part in making him see the light.

C) A close friend was frustrated with business in Stockholm, Sweden as he is aggressive and entrepreneurial. Even though he is a Swede, there are other cities much better for his type of spirit and energy. He asked what I thought of his moving to another European city. I embraced his desire wholeheartedly and he was appreciative of my voice. He had a great experience in his new city.

Whether one is a famous athlete, a woman CEO or common man, it is prudent to have at least one voice of reason to help guide you through the complex, tempting or ambiguous journey of life. Maybe the life of Tiger Wood's could have been more responsible if he had a voice of reason. Maybe he had one but chose not to listen. Who knows? What I do know is that it is usually beneficial if you have a consistent voice to talk with and listen to about life situations - someone who truly cares about you and your well being.

I am grateful for my voices of reason as my life could have been very different if I didn't have those friends - voices I hold in high regard, respect and have my best interests in mind.

Who is your voice of reason?

Have a wonderful 2010 and Happy Gswede Sunday!

The pool in sunny Florida was relaxing during the holidays.