Posted by: TheBullettGroup | November 21, 2012

Wow! Finally earning some money! Amazing!

Posted by: TheBullettGroup | March 15, 2010

THE BILLIONAIRES

Forbes has published its annual list of “Billionaires – The World’s Richest People.” Since I am being treated to a free subscription to the magazine, I actually got to take a look at the full list instead of just seeing the highlights online. Here are some of the facts from the list. The world’s richest person has a worth of $53.5 billion while the top twenty richest people have a combined worth of $550 billion. There are 403 billionaires in the United States with a combined worth of $1.3 trillion. To put that in perspective the price tag for health care reform in America is about $1 trillion. That would mean these 403 people could provide health care for 50 million uninsured people in this country and still have money left over. Or, if they opted not for healthcare then these people could combine their resources to effectively eradicate hunger, homelessness, illiteracy or any of the ills of this country. Of these 403 people only 36 (less than 10%) saw their worth decrease in the past year. In fact, 2009 is hailed as the comeback year for many of these people who did see their worth decrease in the 2008. In a report on National Public Radio on this list a person reportedly said that after the first half a billion dollars there is not a big change in lifestyle. It becomes more about the scorecard than anything else. Isn’t that precious?!

Let us continue to focus on the incredible 403 people. As I just wrote more than 90% of these folks saw their worth increase which is to say they were not affected by the so-called recession. If anything, the recession was good for these folks. While I know that the Forbes list are just good estimates and that the $1.3 trillion combined worth of these people is not just cash sitting around, but a mixture of many different types of assets, one (or at least me) has to ask questions. What if these people were like the Salwen family and willingly parted with half of their assets and donated the money to charity. Half of $1.3 trillion is $650 billion or roughly what we donated to the Wall Street investment banks. The $650 billion would be more than enough to erase all of the deficits faced by the 50 states. This money could provide educational scholarships for countless people. It could feed people, house them, and clothe them. It could do any number of things in this country as well as throughout the world.

Oh, I know that some of these 403 people are rather generous with their money. Bill Gates with his $53 billion making him the second richest person in the world and the richest American is engaged in charity work that will eventually use up all of his money. Warren Buffet has bequeathed his money to the Gates Foundation. Oprah Winfrey touches millions everyday with her show and gives away much to her audience throughout the year (though this does not cost her). She also provides scholarships to students at Tennessee State University, her alma mater, as well as other institutions. She also has famously founded a school for girls in South Africa. Reportedly, she also treats her employees very well. By any measure she is a generous person as is Bill Gates as is Warren Buffet and any number of the 403 people.

But, here’s the thing. As I look at this list I cannot help but wonder if I could be a billionaire. Oh yes, I know it is entirely still possible that I could make a billion dollars. But, could I be a billionaire? From the outside looking in I would say no. I say that because in order to make a billion dollars you probably have to do some less than honest things at times. So, that would play to much with my conscience. Second, to have all that money and see all the hurt in the world would tug too greatly at my heart. Oh, I know, I could not save the world, but I could save some lives. It is like the boy on the seashore throwing the washed up starfish back into the ocean. An onlooker remarks that he cannot possibly expect to save all of the starfish and should just go off and play. The boy replies that he may not save them all but he can make a difference by saving some. Call me a bleeding heart liberal or anything else, but I just believe that we are our brother’s keeper.

So, when I see members of the Walton family on the list I just have to wonder. According to Forbes, the Walton family has a combined worth of approximately $100 billion. The Walton family owns Walmart and we know Walmart is everywhere in this country and throughout the world. We also know that Walmart is infamous for underpaying its employees and denying them benefits coverage. I have a cousin who works at the one here in Huntingdon and even as a “supervisor” she is still not full-time and has no benefits. She puts in almost full-time hours but her hours are always cut back by the company to insure that she does not reach that status. Oh, and my cousin is pregnant. So, here is a pregnant young girl who is underpaid and has no benefits and there are the Waltons with their billions. How do they enjoy themselves?

Going back as to whether I could be a billionaire I might have to change my answer to yes. I would say that on the oft chance that I made the club God would so richly bless me because of my generosity that my worth could even increase. That is how God works. So, the Waltons could provide their employees with a living wage and with benefits and still live and have a fabulous life. But, instead it is more about the profits than the people.

I could say much more on this but let me wrap it run. To whom much is given much is expected. We have the resources within our borders to be a prosperous nation in every aspect instead of the debtor we are in many respects. We are responsible for each other’s welfare and it is a responsibility no one should take lightly. Mark Zuckerberg, the world’s youngest billionaire as the developer of Facebook saw his worth quadruple last year to $4 billion and it may do the same this year if he takes his company public as expected. Do the added billions really make his life appreciably better? Could his added billions make other lives appreciably better? God calls on us to give of ourselves always in every way. When we do that He blesses us in untold ways. So, as you look at this list with wonderment and amazement (and maybe some envy) know there is an even greater more exclusive list where worth is not measured in dollars but by the size of your heart. I want my name on that list.

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On an unrelated side note, one of my favorite all-time actors died yesterday. Peter Graves who I watched for years as Jim Phelps on Mission:Impossible died yesterday of a heart attack. He was 83. Why was he a favorite? I do not exactly know other than MI was such a great show. I also remember having a dream a long, long time ago in which my sister was married to him. I guess I have just considered him to be my almost brother-in-law. He also was famous for his role in Airplane! and its sequel. Then there were the commercials. It was not that he was so drop dead gorgeous. Maybe it was the voice, the debonair look, and his always solid performances. Thanks for the memories Peter Graves. RIP.

Posted by: TheBullettGroup | March 12, 2010

SHAREHOLDERS + PROFIT MARGINS = NO RECOVERY

There are those that might call extreme giving some form of socialism or communism.  At the very least it may be anti-capitalism.  I would disagree on all fronts and say extreme giving is capitalism at its best.  Let me provide an example.

Two weeks ago, Angela Braly, president of Well Point, appeared before a Congressional panel to defend her company’s decision to raise healthcare subscriber rates by 39%!  Granted, I did not see her entire testimony only selected snippets.  But, from what I saw she was good.  She answered every question looking right at the Congress members and did not flinch one bit.  She explained that her company was only going to have a 4.8% profit margin which is very modest.  She felt the pain of her subscribers but felt the increase was justified so that the company would survive and be there for the subscribers.  She did not hesitate when she was asked her salary.  If she was a man there would be no comment about her performance.  In all actuality she performed much better than the male CEOs who have testified over recent months as she did not fumble through papers or appear to be hiding anything.  As a female we may call her a dragon lady.  Truth is, she was doing her JOB and her shareholders should be proud of her performance.  The profit margin stayed intact and all her friends and colleagues are happy.

Now suppose she went to that hearing and announced that she agreed the 39% increase was excessive and to lessen the burden her company would take a chance and only maintain a 2% profit margin, or if she was really wild and crazy a 1% profit margin.  Further, she would forgo any stock options for the next year and cut her salary in half.  She would also reduce the salaries of her top people by at least 10% and urge them to voluntarily match her reduction or come close.  No doubt, her shareholders would revolt and she most likely would be immediately replaced.  Her employees would be in an uproar and believe that she drank the bug juice on the way to Washington from California.  At the same time something dramatic might also happen.  Anthem Blue Cross, healthcare subsidiary of Well Point, most likely would gain new customers who admired what she was doing.  New customers would increase revenues which could possibly mean that the reduced profit margin could produce a higher profit.  Moreover, because her competitors do not their customers abandoning them they, too, may follow Anthem’s lead and lessen their increases.  It becomes a snowball effect and quite possibly a win-win for everyone.

Let’s take another example.  Early last year the CEOs of the big banking establishments in New York City were summoned to Congress to defend the bonuses they and their employees received.  Some genius by that time had come up with the idea that if the bonuses were called retention pay it might be more palatable to the public.  That did not work.  Nonetheless, the CEOs all defended their practices and cried that if they did not award the extra pay then their top people would leave and go elsewhere.  Of course, since many of the banks were shuttered there was not a lot of “elsewheres” to go so that did not placate anybody.  Now suppose if just one of those CEOs admitted that, yes, they screwed up.  And, he was taking the extraordinary measure of canceling all bonuses and donating the money to charity.  What would have happened?  Oh sure, some the brats might have left the company but I suspect that many would have stayed.  Again, the “elsewheres” are limited.  And, if one of the CEOs did that do you think the other CEOs would just let him get all of the limelight and not try to steal some for themselves? 

You see, while we have many individual stories of people who are practicing extreme giving we do not see that from corporate America.  For example, Goldman Sachs, the biggest and most arrogant bad boy of the lot, announced recently that it would be donating $100 million to charity.  That may sound like a lot until you hear that more than twenty times that amount was being paid to its employees in the form of bonuses, er, retention pay.  For his son’s sixteenth birthday, PDiddy gave him a $400k Maybach and $10k for him to donate to charity.  What if instead the son kept the $10k and donated $400k to charity?  Better yet, what if he gave the $10k to charity, too?  And, what about the Academy Awards and their infamous swag bags where actors and actresses are given tons of free expensive things that they themselves could afford to pay?  What if the Academy said no more and insisted that instead of gifts to the Academy members that equivalent amount of money be donated to charity?  Do you think that none of the actors would show to receive their awards?

This is not anti-capitalism at all.  Rather it is an understanding that if I share my blessings I will be blessed even more. It puts us the people back in control instead of always looking at the government to fix things for us.  We do not need government to end poverty.  We can do it ourselves.  We do not need the government to end homelessness, we can do it ourselves.  You see, when we sacrifice instead of ending up with less more than likely we will end up with more.   Remember the Biblical story of the fishes and loaves?  God wants us to be like Him so that He can treat us like obedient children.  Because what happens with obedient children?  Most likely we reward them and push them to strive even higher.  IT is very simple – UNITED we stand, DIVIDED we fall and there is way too much divisions here and elsewhere.

Posted by: TheBullettGroup | March 11, 2010

BE EXTREME

On Monday I shared six stories (or 5 stories and a fantasy since the part about me is just a fantasy at this point). Why? Well, I wanted to illustrate what happens when we give of ourselves juxtaposed against what happens we do not give of ourselves. And, I am not talking just about giving, but rather about this new fangled term called extreme giving. I decided not to look up the definition of extreme giving as I want to attempt to define it myself. Extreme giving to me is when you give unconsciously more than you ever thought you could. Two Biblical examples stand out for me. First, is Abraham who was willing to offer his son as a sacrifice. The other is the poor woman who places all of her money in the collection plate not holding anything back. I read that on average Americans give 2.1% of their income to charity. That is not very much. Churches will extol you to give 10% of your income to the church as your tithe in accordance to Biblical practice. To me 2% or 10% does not qualify for extreme giving, yet there is no percentage where which I would drive the line.

Nelson Mandela is an extreme giver. No, he did not donate millions of dollars (though he did donate one third of his salary which he thought was too much to charity)but his gift is his heart. How else could a man endure all that time and be released and lead his country through a peaceful transition from apartheid. How could he put his reputation on the line for a rugby team and know that it was the right thing do? How could he devise the Truth and Reconciliation Committee in which the truth was allowed to come to light without repercussions. I do not know if he sat and devised a master plan for all that he did. Rather, I believe it was done unconsciously because he knew it must be done regardless of the initial pain. He knew how to heal the wounds and he knew that could not be done with guns or by treating the whites as a bad as they treated white. No, it came from love and love is God’s extreme gift to us.

Then there are the Tuohys and the Salwens. The last thing the Tuohys ever expected to have was an African American bunking with them and becoming part of their family. I mean really, this was the south and things like that just are not done. But, they did. They were stretched and look at the blessings they have received. Same with Salwens. They were givers who gave both time and money. But, their daughter challenged them to do more and they did something crazy. Oh sure you, look at these people now – the Tuohys have a movie and the Salwens a book. But, that is just the thing. God returns our gifts tenfold. We serve the infinite giver. So, when we give a piece of our heart God returns it and makes us even stronger. What finally disappointed me about the movie Extraordinary Measures is that it really distorted the true story to the point it was almost fiction. There was no cranky white mid western doctor but rather a team of doctors of which a doctor of Asian decent was the stand out. And, yes, the Crowley family did get rich. But, the treatment that was discovered costs some $200,000 a year that is not covered by insurance putting it out of reach of most of the people who need it. What if the Crowleys said we are going to give up the big house and the big salary and donate the proceeds so that more people are able to be treated? That would be extreme.

Next we have the Mormon and Catholic churches. These are two very wealthy “religious” entities with untold assets. I am sure that if you go into a Catholic or Mormon church you will not leave without being asked to give. And yes, both institutions do a tremendous deal for mankind. But, we cannot ignore the hurt they cause because they refuse to recognize homosexuals as viable, legitimate creations of God. People die, people are abused, people lose faith. What would happen tomorrow if today both institutions recognized the gay and lesbian community. Do you believe it would make them weaker or stronger? Why is Vatican City – a country unto itself – really needed? Sell half of your assets and use the proceeds to help those who have been tormented by your policies. Show the world you are serious. No, we cannot bring back the dead, but we can bring peace to those who are still alive and make sure that there will not be anymore sexual abuse.

Radical, eh? True, but if we are going to save our country and our world we must be bold. There is absolutely no reason why anybody in this entire world has to go hungry – we have the resources to feed the world and eradicate this problem.

When I wrote my $100 million list I did not do it with attention of being an extreme giver. No, it was just my way of saying I do not need to have all of the in my possession and that the greatest thing I could do with good fortune is share with others.

You know another form of extreme giving? Adoption. Years ago in the African American community there was the Each One Reach One campaign which posited that if every African American adopted just one child we would clear out the orphanages in no time flat. Adoption is something that I always wanted to do though at my age I may not get to do it. We’ll see.

Extreme giving is just about going outside of your comfort zone and doing something for others. You know, starting that business you always wanted to start and providing good quality employment for others can be a form of extreme giving. There are many, many examples of extreme giving but we need more. We need it to be both a national and international phenomenon. This is how we bring peace and reconciliation to a world that hurts and hungers for healing.

Posted by: TheBullettGroup | March 8, 2010

THE SEXTET

I saw the movie Invictus yesterday and I was teary eyed throughout the entire show. For those unfamiliar with story it tells of Nelson Mandela’s first year as President of South Africa and his efforts to get the country to rally around its bumbling rugby team as it tried to make it to the World Cup final which would be played in South Africa. This was no feat as rugby was a sport played by the whites while the blacks played soccer. The team was a symbol of apartheid to the blacks who sought to dismantle, rename, and reorganize the team as part of the new South Africa. Further, the blacks were conditioned to root against the team and for the team’s opponents. But, Mandela had a vision that if this team could make it to the final and win it would not only help heal the country’s divisions but show the world the new South Africa. And, yes, the team makes it to the final and wins and there is rejoicing in the streets. The most moving part of the film was when it showed the Robbin Island cell where Mandela spent all those years. What moved me so much was not the story, but seeing Mandela (played by Morgan Freeman). What kind of person has a vision such as this? What kind of person has a heart that big?

News broke on February 27, 2010 that singer Marie Osmond’s eighteen year old adopted son, Michael Bryan, committed suicide by jumping out of an eighth floor window. Certainly, this was a tragedy and I grieved along with Marie. This past Thursday a friend posted a link on his Facebook page to Roseanne Barr’s blog in which she blurted out that the the boy was gay and killed himself because he would be shunned by the Mormon church for his sexuality. She accused Marie Osmond of placing her church above her son’s life and called on Marie to renounce the Mormon Church for its stand on homosexuality. Those were some strong words by Roseanne. I do not know if those words are true and I may be doing a disservice by repeating them here. I do know that one magazine article I read in Barnes and Noble yesterday did confirm that Michael was questioning his sexuality. And, while no his sexuality may have played a part in his suicide there were apparently other demons he was battling as well (Marie herself attempted suicide a few years back). Regardless, the stance of the Mormon Church on homosexuality is worth being discussed and does factor into the suicides and depressions of its young members (and probably older ones, too). And so, the question arises, how many more lives will be sacrificed either physically or emotionally before the Mormon Church which embraces polygamy will recognize and love all of God’s creations?

In Saturday’s newspaper there was an article about a new abuse scandal rocking the Catholic Church. This time the country is Germany, the native land of the current Pope. We all know about the abuse scandal in the United States a few years ago and since that time there have been scandals in Ireland, the Philippines, Poland (home of the previous Pope), Mexico, Italy, Canada and elsewhere. Pope “Benedict called the sexual abuse of children ‘not only a heinous crime, also a grave sin which offends God and wounds the dignity of the human person created in His image.’” “Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, the head of the German Bishops Conference has reacted defensively to growing criticism of the Catholic church. ‘Sexual abuse of children is not a specific problem of the Catholic church. It has neither to do with celibacy, nor with homosexuality nor with sexual doctrine.’” Um, yes it does and until the Catholic church acknowledges that it does there will more abuse scandals. Celibacy in the Catholic church has less to do with spirituality than it does with preservation of the church assets.

At the Academy Awards last evening, Sandra Bullock won the Best Actress award for her portrayal of Anne Tuohy in the film, The Blind Side. This was a film that I initially overlooked (like The Hurt Locker) until my mother told me about the story which she saw reported on 20/20. Here, a very well off white family takes in a homeless, semi-illiterate, young African American male, Michael Oher, who is a new student at their children’s exclusive private school. He is real big and becomes a football standout in high school and then college and now for the Baltimore Ravens of the National Football League. At one point the Tuohy family is accused of extending this kindness for the sole purpose of securing better football seats for games at the University of Mississippi. In reality, this act of kindness was not planned and certainly the family did not expect what was a one night invitation to result in what it did. There is a scene in the movie where Bullock states that her family was being blessed just as much if not more than the young man.

Then there is the Salwen family in Atlanta. Here a fourteen year old girl was riding in the car with her father and upon seeing a homeless man innocently remarked that if the person in the next lane drove a less expensive then the homeless person might have a place to stay. That set off a series of events in which she challenged her parents to be more charitable which frustrated the parents who felt they were plenty charitable enough. “What would you have us do, sell our home and give half the proceeds to charity?” Well, yes, replied the daughter. They did and what at first may have strained the family relationships ended up bringing them closer together (including the son who was like, “what the…”). Their story is told in the new book, The Power of Half.

Finally, a little tale about me. There is an exercise in the book Cash in a Flash in which the readers are instructed to write down what they would do with $100 million. For me it was an exercise that I had mentally done previously as I dreamed of winning one of those huge Powerball jackpots. It was intention to use my blessing as a blessing to others. So, while I had the ideas in my head this was the first time I wrote it down. The exercise in the book continued by instructed readers to write the checks. So, that is what I did this past weekend as I had some leftover checks from a closed accounts. I wrote the checks according to the list I made. In the end even I was amazed that of the $100 million, I would intend to give away $75 million to family, friends, and charities. To some that may seem extreme, but to me it seemed right. How much does one person really need. How would spend your $100 million?

Posted by: TheBullettGroup | March 5, 2010

NEW TREASURE

We had another extraordinary Cash Club (www.cashinaflashsecrets.com) with  Robert Allen.  The last two calls have  been different then what the previous calls had.  In the call previous to this Bob spent the entire hour trying to allay our fears about stepping out and emphasizing that doing something no matter how bad it may be is better than doing nothing.  At least if you do something and it is bad you have learned something in process while doing nothing also means you learn nothing.  Further, chances are that no matter how bad you are you may, indeed, just meet with success even if it is no more than a confirmation that you are bad.  But, chances are there will be somebody willing to engage you.

In last evening’s call, Bob went through a good portion of the 32 emails that were in his inbox.   I know, it sounds boring but it was not.  First, we were afforded the opportunity to see (hear) the emails that he gets.  He explained to us that his business and communication is done mostly electronically.  Second, we heard about some of the many different ways that he makes money.  Third, and I think the main point was that it illustrated nicely the sales funnel that is important in internet marketing.  The sales funnel concept is that you start with something free or low cost that may appeal to the masses and then you keep essentially offering other products/services at increased price points that appeal to fewer and fewer and people (or, rather, that fewer and fewer people may be able to afford).  For example, he illustrated from an email of a guy who would be selling his new book to one of Bob’s audiences that the initial call may only be worth about $1,000 to the guy which is not a big sum.  But, if the guy marketed his materials the right way he could generate another $25k or more which now starts to be a more impressive payday.  The fourth and final point of the call was to get us to expand our horizons – the magic of thinking big.  If we can make $1k then we should be able to duplicate that process and keep making $1k on a regular basis.  But, if we start to think about what else we can do to satisfy our clients then we can turn that $1k into not only thousands of dollars but literally millions as well.

After call I went home and looked through the brochure I received earlier in the day on the new line of Jaguar XL line.  That is my reward I decided and the belief is that by this time next year I will be driving one.  I know, I know you would tell me to concentrate on getting a house before I get the expensive depreciating automobile asset.  But, the great thing about it is that when I do the work correctly, the car will be paid for by others.  So, indeed, it is a reward.  I am already visualizing driving it.  My first interim reward to is get rid of my 2000 Audi A6 4.2 for a Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited (or possibly the 3.6i Limited).  So, I will have a great rugged utility vehicle and luxury vehicle.  What is left is a fun vehicle and that will most likely be the Chevrolet Camaro convertible that will go on sale in 2011 about the time I should be ready to purchased.  Yes, I did say that purchase as that car will not be paid for by others.  But hey, having three great vehicles while only paying for one is not a bad deal.

Lest I seem absolutely, the reason for this journey is not about the cars or even necessarily about my success.  For me it is about duplicating what Robert Allen is doing.  That is, learning to be successful so that I can teach others the same.  That will be my mark of success.  Indeed,  I take my marching orders from this passage in the Book of Luke:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor,

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives

and recovering of sight to the blind

to set at liberty those who are oppressed

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.   (Luke 4:18-19)

Let me give you example of what I mean.  There was meeting of the leaders of the AME, AME Zion, and CME churches the other day to discuss of the plight of young African American males.  They decided they would have Saturday academies to tutor the guys in math and science and have a prison prevention program.  Certainly, this is a noble effort.  Where to me it falls short is this.  We teach the guys math and science to prep them for college to prep them for “careers (i.e., jobs).”    That is a broken model because guess what the jobs are likely not to be there.  So, we put all of this false hope in these young people and when it is dashed it is no wonder they lash out.  But, not only this model broken but the model these churches employ is also broken.  Just a few years my mother’s home church, an AME church, reached out repeatedly to the AME leadership for assistance in building the church (membership, not property) up.  Essentially, those pleas fell on deaf ears.  The result was the church decided to leave the AME family.  Well, that got the attention of the AME leaders.  But, still their attention was not focused on helping the people but on punishing the people.  All of the sudden these folks could find a local attorney to file a lawsuit to sue for the property and assets.  There was no concern for the people.  And so, the question is how can these churches who themselves believe in keeping their people weak and dependent teach anything different to these young people?  The answer is they cannot and will not.

What Robert Allen is attempting to do with us in the Cash Club is break out of the that cycle of book learning and rote repetition.  He is challenging us to not so much to think “outside the box” but to think inside ourselves and using our knowledge and skills for the good of the greater humanity. What I want to do is duplicate Bob.  This is about building people to make them more independent instead of tearing them down and leaving them dependent.  This is the “good news” being “proclaimed to the poor.”  This is the “liberty to the captives” and to the “oppressed.”  Yes, this is “the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Posted by: TheBullettGroup | March 4, 2010

OUR TREASURE PART DEUX

Listen through until the end and you will see the difference between spirituality and religion.

Posted by: TheBullettGroup | March 1, 2010

OUR TREASURE

Today I ask for your indulgence as I write about the passing of a person who was influential in my life.  On Saturday a friend posted on his Facebook page that our high school choral director, Herbert S. Williams had passed.  Later, I read the full obituary in the local paper where it was a front page story.  What struck me about Mr. Williams’ passing was how immediate expressions of true sorrow that were expressed on Facebook from those of us who were his former students.  And, while I knew of Mr. Williams’ long tenure in the school, the enormity of that fact did not resonate until I read the newspaper and discovered that he began teaching in 1938!  He retired in 1980, a year after my graduation, having taught for 42 years.

Okay, enough with the formality.  While we may have called him “Mr. Williams” to his face, behind his back he was the more familial “Herb (and there were those that would call him this, too).  We called him Herb not as a sign of disrespect but as a way of showing how comfortable we were around him.  More than a teacher, he was a friend, a colleague.  Indeed, for some of us, we were around him more than any other teacher on staff.  Oh yes, given that he was near the end of his teaching career we did regard him as being a step away from senile and someone we could get over on, but we also knew then and know that he was not necessarily that person.  If ever we knew that then it was my senior year when he took a one semester sabbatical.  His substitute that fall was a nice woman no doubt.  But, she earned our enmity when she announced that the traditional candlelight processional at the Christmas show would not be done.  That was heresy and we let her know it.  There was one day during choir that our wrath was expressed and brought her to tears.  I was later chastised by my drama teacher for not taking enough of a leadership role to stop the onslaught (though I did not participate but was only a spectator).  When Herb returned in January he seemed refreshed and was determined that that would be the year in which a long time dream of performing in at Disneyland with his select choir would occur.  And, it did!

I have not returned to the high school since I graduated to see any of the Christmas shows or other musical performances.  I do not know if they still sing Lay Down Your Staffs as they process in, if indeed they process at all.  But, I do remember what a big deal Herb had made the annual Christmas show.  It was not just a program where we stood up and sang a number of songs and that was it.  No, it was a show, much like a variety show on television.  There was the processional.  There was the formal singing on the risers.  Then there was an informal scene with a few select people.  There were the small groups.  And, then, there was the Belles and Beaus.

Ah, yes, the Belles and Beaus.  B & B was Herb’s special group of talented singers.  They were handpicked by him and we would practice not just after school, but actually in the evenings – Monday evenings to be exact.  In fact, one female wrote on Facebook that she actually made it into B&B but was unable to participate because her father could not pick her up after rehearsal.  The B&B got to perform at special events in town and the area and was the so-called touring choir.  We would perform at other schools in the district and in the spring we actually would embark on a weeklong tour.  Those were some fun times and there are secrets from those tours that our parents still do not know about! 

As I mentioned previously, we got to travel to Florida to perform at Disneyworld and Sea World.  It was a trip that had been planned for two years, but just never happened.  And, in my senior year when we wanted it to happen (and I was president of B&B) it did not appear it would be likely given that Herb had taken the semester off.  But, when he came back he said we were going and away we went.  It was magical.  And, I will let one secret out.  Prior to the trip I bought ginger brandy from a friend who had it left over from the prom.  Well, the first night in Florida I drank that ginger brandy and got violently drunk (i.e., I vomited).  But, the next morning I was okay after I had breakfast.  Thus, began the tradition of having bacon, eggs, toast, and juice the morning after any binge.

Let me tell one last Herb story.  Herb drove a 1963 Buick Riviera which just cemented the image of him being ancient.  He loved that car.  In 1977 he bought a brand new Oldsmobile Ninety-eight and I could never figure out why he would still drive that old Buick and not the new Olds.  I guess in my senior year when he drove us to District Chorus he took us in the Buick and I was upset that we had to ride in the old car and not the new car (image was everything!).  Later, he drove us again in the Buick to Regional Chorus in the Buick and extolled the virtues of that old car especially that you could put it in low gear going down a hill and the speed would remain constant.

I think about that now as a metaphor of life.  We so dismissed Herb because he was old and when we got someone new and more contemporary we realized what a treasure we had in Herb.  I kept in touch in Herb for many years and he sent me a long letter in 2000 which, regrettably, I never answered.  I kept the letter and after a few years I thought that he may be dead by then which of course he was not.  I regret not being able to hear the stories that he could tell.  Here was a man who literally saw our school district build up before his eyes.  And, given his longevity he taught generations of families.  He touched so many lives not by being flashy or arrogant, but just by being himself.

You know, I recently went to a program at Mount Union Area High School in which a narrator presented research of the history of the town and of the African American presence.   It was to say the least a proud history.  But, as I listened I realized that so many of our older people are dying with their stories being untold.  Not just in Mt. Union, but everywhere.  We in this country are so quick to put our elderly away and deem them insignificant or useless.  We do not realize what treasure they hold for us, if only we took the time.

So, let this be our lesson for today.  If there are elderly people who are special in your life, take time to be with them.  Ask them about the old days and listen intently to what they have to say.  Better yet, record what they say so their stories will be around for generations to come.

Rest in peace, Herb.  Thanks, for everything. 

Posted by: TheBullettGroup | February 26, 2010

URBAN RENEWAL

Many of us grew up seeing our parents work at their jobs. I know I did. Further, it seems that from an early age we are indoctrinated into thinking that having a job is our destiny. How many children grow up wanting to be a policeman, a fireman, an astronaut, or a doctor? Oh sure, these “professions” may seem more glamorous than being, say, a field hand or a civil servant. Yet, the truth is that they are all the same. A job is a job is a job. And what is a job? Slavery. What are slaves, er, employees? Liabilities. And, what does one do with a liability? Get rid of it.

There you have it in a nutshell. While you may believe you are an asset to your organization and that the company is there to provide you with opportunities for advancement, the truth is quite the opposite. The company exists to try to get rid of you so as to reduce its liabilities and increase profits. Don’t believe me? Notice what direction the Dow Jones Industrial Average moves when the national unemployment rate is announced. Whether you are in a minimum wage job or one paying millions of dollars, you are not a valued asset. Hey, look at former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine who was ousted in a blink of an eye from his job as the CEO of Goldman Sachs. Look, too, at our friend Urban Meyer who we have been mentioning all week. How many seasons without a national championship will Florida be able to endure before he becomes too great of a liability? Just by taking a leave of absence makes him a high risk to some. Heck, even the great Joe Paterno at Penn State is a liability who many think the university can no longer afford.

So, what am I suggesting. Should we all quit our jobs? Should we never ever take a job? Well, here is what I am saying in a nutshell. We need to be reprogrammed away from the “jobs mentality” and be touched by the entrepreneurial spirit. Oh sure, through the 20th century our work made this country great as we built roads, skyscrapers, rockets, etc. But, in the end we got away from working with our hands and our minds where we actually created something of value to the point we ended up just lining our pockets and devaluing hard, honest, creative work. Now, here in the second decade of the 21st century with a national unemployment close to 40% (yes, I said 40% and that is not an exaggeration), there will not be a recovery robust enough to re-employ those who are not working and employ those who are new to the marketplace.

We will need to return to the basics – a time prior to the 20th century when we made things that allowed us to be self-sufficient. We have to take back our lives from the big banks and encourage more micro lending a la Nobel Laureate Mohammed Yunas. We have to move away from being individuals and learn again to be communities where we share and look out for each other. It is, yes, a fundamental shift. But, we can no longer afford to be the country we have become. Congress will soon (I hope) extend unemployment benefits yet again which will mean for some that the 26 week original weeks of unemployment benefits will stretch for nearly a three year period. And, for some that will still be not enough. But, how long can our government keep propping up our fake economy. AIG, with its nearly $200 billion in government bailout funds may soon be asking for even more money. Goldman Sachs finds itself embroiled in yet another controversy in its role as supply fake capital to the government of Greece. Our “dream jobs” are just that – DREAMS.

Each and every one of us needs to take inventory of ourselves and figure out what value we can add to the world. Go the website, www.cashinaflashsecrets.com and order the free video. This is not about getting rich quick, but it is about building a community of entrepreneurs who support themselves and share with others. Contact me (anthony@bullettgroup.com) about becoming a customer and/or marketing executive of Melaleuca. Do something that will lower your retirement age and allow you to enjoy life without being tied to a desk. Create that safety net so that when it is your turn to be cast off from your job you will be prepared. Or, better yet, start something that will allow you to rid yourself of your organization as an unneeded and unwanted liability. This is how we will recover from this economic mess. Be up for the challenge so you can reap the amazing rewards.

YOU ARE BLESSED!

Posted by: TheBullettGroup | February 24, 2010

URBAN DECAY

I am child of the 1960s, yet, admittedly, there is not much I remember about that decade. I remember when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. I remember watching the 1968 Democratic National Convention, but I do not remember the riots. I vaguely remember the riots that occurred in the country, though I do not remember Stonewall. The most vivid memory is that of the moon landing and walk.

I still have fond memories of growing up in the sixties. I remember starting kindergarten. I remember friends from grade school and “competing” with another student for top honors. I remember summers spent playing with the neighbors and cousins in our yards. I remember learning to swim in Stone Creek River and spending many afternoons there swimming. There were the evening wiffle ball games, playing statue, tag, and hide and go seek. Every August we would spend a night sleeping outdoors to watch the meteor shower. Also, in summer there was summer school. At that time it was not for remedial education, but there were courses offered for half days in various subjects. I took art one year and our art teacher, Carole Heilig, had a VW Beetle. So, one day we all decided to how many of us could pile in the car. I do not remember the exact number, but I do remember it was fun trying.

In many ways as I look back the 1960s was probably the best decade of my life. It was great to be an American back then. We seemed to have so much passion whether it was fighting for or against the war in Vietnam, women’s rights, civil rights, etc. We set up the Great Society programs. We can argue whether these programs achieved their lofty goals, but we do need to admit that they were/are effective in some ways. We raced to the moon, we built interesting cars, and our politics was interesting. There was the counter culture movement, the assassinations (JFK, RFK, MLK, Malcolm X), the riots, the protests. It was such an active decade. Each of us in our own way expressed who we were and why we were important.

I now believe that this burgeoning decade, the second of the new millennium, could just be the another important decade like the 1960s. Of course, there are those that believe we may not make it to the end of the decade as the world as we know it may cease to exist come the end of 2012. Be that as it may, I believe this decade is one in which we will have to define ourselves again not just as a country, but as global beings created by God.

The reason I wrote previously about Urban Meyer is that to some extent his situation is illustrative of the battles we will fight this decade. Our work, if satisfying, is just too much – too many hours, too much to do, too far to commute, etc. Yet, there are many more where the thrill is just plain gone – they are drones who show up to work and proceed through the day by rote without ever getting their creative juices going. I believe Urban Meyer truly wanted a break. Even though he has seen great success at Florida he knows that success is fleeting. Each year he is expected to exceed the previous year. That means more recruiting trip, more nights devising plays, more games, more practices, more hobnobbing with the never satisfied alumni boosters, and increasing scrutiny by the NCAA. Oh sure, his multi-million dollar is quite good, but when does he get to sit back and really enjoy it? Does he really ever have down time or real quality family time? Were his creative juices still flowing or was he, too, becoming just another drone? Where does he go from Florida – to the pros were few college coaches are successful? To another division? To Notre Dame? Will get easier or will the pressures mount wherever he is?

It just seems that so many of us are losing our abilities to just have fun, to be creative, imaginative, and be ourselves. I live in the small town where I was born. When I was growing up the downtown was vibrant. There were stores upon stores selling most everything imaginable. These were not chain stores (though there was J.C. Penney store), but stores set up by individuals. Did they close because there was no more business. I look around the town and see that there are more people, more houses, and yes, more money. Those stores did not close necessarily for lack of business but lack of people to run those business. Opening a store is so passe when we could have some big office job with some long title. Staying is a small town is not the thing to do when we can get in our car and go off to the big cities where there is more “opportunity.” And, who needs the stores now that we have the internet and can do our shopping online from the comfort of our home.

I believe people are tired. They have realized that they have been duped. The big house, the fancy car, the nice clothes, the “perfect” children, the great job, and the fancy title are all more illusions than reality. We believed that if we like our parents worked hard and earned all that money that we would have a better life. Yet, for so many this is just not the case. We make more money but pay out more for childcare, mortgages, cars, medical expenses and the life. The stock keeps playing this game where every ten years or so it goes “poof” and our saving disappear. We find that we cannot retire when we wanted and that the government keeps up the retirement age. Where does it all stop?

In my mind this is the decade that we will have to deal with this chaos. We cannot keep going as we have. Big business has bought off the government and now it rules our officials just as it rules us. We will not survive if we continue to do the same things as we have done them in the past. Things just have to change.

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