Conquering your Mt. Everest

by Mike Aux-Tinee

What’s towering in front of you seems immovable, majestic and utterly impressive. The longer you stand and gawk the more you feel a sense of inferiority. This is a very unnerving feeling. You think to yourself, ‘I’ve chewed off more than I should have. I’m in way over my head. Maybe it’s better to tuck my tail between my legs and run and hide.’

The thing is you need to get to the other side because something is pushing you forward. The brain goes to work examining all the possibilities to overcome this obstacle. It dawns on you the only way is over the top. Your worst nightmare has just become a reality.

Bring on the one man rain delay. You stall hoping a better solution will present itself. Or maybe your fairy godmother will come along wave her magic wand and presto you are transported to the other side. Let’s be realistic. Whatever delusion you come up with is not going to happen. It does nothing more than provide a temporal escape for your brain. All the while you experience a brief and false sense of happiness or euphoria. But don’t fall for it, your Mt. Everest is still there, snubbing its nose at you, knowing all too well, who the badass of the two of you really is.

You sigh, which is a sign you are not committed. Hey, let’s give it the old college try and when you fail (because if you aren’t one hundred percent committed to conquering what is in front of you, you will fail.) you can walk around, spouting out jingoistic babble as to why things went wrong. Always pointing the finger and lying blame everywhere else other than where it really belongs – which is you. It’s nothing more than a façade and the prettier yours looks the more you will be able to bullshit the masses.

All the while, your Mt. Everest is still there, maybe even getting bigger as time passes.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.

The problem will never go away until you take the first step, then another and yet another. It’s time to find out what you are made of and make a mole hill out of a mountain. And here’s how you can do just that.

1. Clear your mind

We have a lot of background noise that filters in and is distracting.  You need to shut it all out. Finding a sanctuary where you focus is very important. This is the place that will provide you the time you need to think, rest and marshal yourself for what you are about to do.

2. Take inventory of abilities

Jumping out of the gate without having the knowledge or skills that will be imperative for your success is going to lead to your failure. You need to know what your strengths and weaknesses are and prepare accordingly.

3. Establish realistic goals and objectives

You cannot run before you learn to crawl. Chances are the task in front of you will demand a great deal of time, patience and change before it’s eliminated. Having short term and achievable milestones to reach will keep your motivated.

4. To error is human, expect to make some

You are going to experience some setbacks. So it’s best to expect them right from the start. But the strength and courage your muster to pick yourself up and keep going will help you achieve what you’ve set out to do.

5. Adopt the never surrender mentality

To be successful, you must absolutely, beyond a reasonable doubt become tenacious. Let hell or high water come before you quit. When you look at successful people, the one trait they all possess is the determination to complete what they set out to do. A great example is Thomas Edison, do a little homework and check out how many tries it took him until he invented the light bulb.

6. Never ask for advice, only someone’s help

Everyone has an opinion and is very willing to give it to you. When you ask the question, “What do you think?” You are giving the other person enormous power and stating to them, you are smarter and I am not. And their advice may not always be the best course of action.

7. Even though you’ve reached the summit, push past to the next horizon

All cylinders have been firing and you’ve knocked the stuffing out of your Mt. Everest. Stopping at the top may seem like the no brainer. Your life is better. You’ve gained a great deal of self-confidence, self-reliance and hopefully more independence. The thing is there is something that’s very cool just waiting over the horizon for you to come along and discover.  Now is the time you can explore more of what life has to offer, which you could not do before you started.

While this is a rather broad outline, it is a place to start. Take what I have written and customize it to fit your circumstances. Go forth and conquer.

Peace dudes!

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Au revoir 2013 and Bon Jour 2014!

By Mike Aux-Tinee.

Now that 2013 is finally over and 2014 is here, it’s time to look back at what I did (and didn’t do). There were many firsts last year and I was busy as a little beaver. While I notched some major accomplishments, there were many things that slipped through the cracks.

In January I began taking yoga. I was in a 2012 post-holiday slump and needed to break out of it. I also realized I hadn’t been exercising as much and I was three months away from heading back outside to cycle (so long as the weather cooperated.)  I needed to take every opportunity to keep myself in shape and yoga helped a great deal.

In February I began the editing process for my first children’s book, The Voyage of the Sharky Sloop and the Quest for Orange Marmalade. I had written the book the previous fall and as soon as the calendar flipped, it was off to the editor for her review.

March was a rather busy month. To start off, I celebrated my one year anniversary of being debt free! As I wrote in my book, Islands of Happiness, which was published in November of 2012, it was the best decision I had ever made. And I am still debt free to this day (soon to be celebrating my two-year anniversary in eight weeks!)

Also in March, I began writing my second children’s book, Red Stocking the Pirate and the Search for the Golden Cutlass. Which I will be sharing more with you when I chat about 2014.

April-May: I put these two months together for the simple reason, I was busy rewriting my first book, writing my second, taking yoga and trying to find some time to cycle!

In May, I headed back to Europe for a vacation to The Netherlands. When I left here, it was in the 50’s and rainy. When I got to Amsterdam, it was in the 50’s and rainy! I thought I would get some sunny warmer weather… but no! I will be writing a post about that trip, so I’ll keep it short here, I had a good time, the people were very nice but I did not get outside as much as I would have liked… because of the cooler weather and so much rain. Oh well.

June-July-August: More of the same. I did finish my second children’s book and put it away. My editor and I feverishly worked toward completing The Sharky Sloop. In July and I hired an illustrator to create the interior art.

September-October-November: I was in panic mode. The interior art was taking much longer that I anticipated and it looked like the book would not come out before the end of the year. Thank goodness for YOGA! Since I was short on projects, I began writing my third children’s book and completed it in late November. This one will be coming out in 2015 (I hope!) The final round of editing on The Sharky Sloop book was completed and the interior art was in the last stage… the art was finally in color!

October I hit the big blue skies and visited New York City. It was my first visit there and from the moment my feet hit the ground I was whisked off. I saw the Broadway play Newsies, which was very good, especially from the front row. I spent a lot of time in Central Park, made it to the top of Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building and had lunch a Carnage Deli (HUGE sandwiches!) but very good!

December: A lot more yoga… And on December 18th, my first children’s book was published! As soon as I approved the final proof and saw it on Amazon, I felt the weight of the world just lift off my shoulders.

2014:

With the New Year just three days old, I am eagerly looking forward to what this year will bring and what my priorities will be.

The first thing I’d like to point out is that I have not made any New Year resolutions. Let’s be honest, good intentions aside, they last only a couple of weeks anyway and by late February/early March they are gone by the way of Disco. Instead, I have several priorities that I will be focusing on in my free time and work to keep that list to a dull roar.

Last year, I did not spend as much time writing posts as I would have liked. I am not going to drudge up all of the reasons, but let’s just say that I am focusing more on writing posts and hope to keep the momentum going through the year.

I am going to celebrate my second year of being debt free! I will continue to look for more ways to live a smaller but more productive life.  I have come across several more websites about minimalism, travel and some exciting others that I hope will keep me focused and on track.

As for exercising, I am continuing with yoga, swimming and as soon as the warm weather returns, cycling.

On the travel front, I am mulling over going to Ireland, Portugal or Spain. As you know, January is when I begin making my travel plans and those are the front-runners. I have my Rick Steves’ books waiting at the library to be picked up. I will reveal my choice in a post once it’s completed.

As for writing, I am beginning to edit my second children’s book and with the experience from the first, I will not be waiting as long to start the interior art. I hope (but don’t hold me to this) to have it out by September-October of this year (finger’s crossed.)

With the New Year just three days old, it would appear I already have a lot going on… Calgon take me away!

Let me hear from you and what you are up to!

Peace dudes!

Mike

What it means to me to be a minimalist.

by Mike Aux-Tinee.

Several years ago, I was reading an article about a writer who became disillusioned with his job, quit, and moved from the east coast to the west coast. Up to that point, I was right along with him (I had a job that I was not excited about either.) But where he lost me was what he did with his things. They were not packed in boxes and trucked across the country. Instead, he sold what he could and rest was donated to charity. All he took along were some clothes, a few personal items and that was about it. He made the decision to change his life and to live with less – a lot less and become a minimalist. There was more to the story and what it means to be a minimalist. I had only tripped across the tip of the iceberg.

I did not understand was why he wanted to shed the American Dream and everything else that goes along with it. I thought he was crazy because it’s what everyone does. The relentless pursuit of the American Dream, as we are told, will bring us happiness.

As I continued to read about minimalism, I discovered there were more people doing the same thing to one degree or another. And this confused me. How can this person claim to be a minimalist if they were not following the exact same path as all the others? The problem (my problem), was not being flexible in the application of minimalism. Once I scaled back and took a broader view, I found everyone was doing the same things, more or less. What I discovered, is that there are countless and different ways to be a minimalist.

To be a minimalist, there are no hard fast rules. But there are the general guidelines or principles to follow and here is what I’ve discovered:

  1. Be debt free or close to it.
  2. Downsize your life.
  3. Reduce consumption.
  4. Establish and pursue passions and interests.

Afterwards, it’s however you wish to live your life – as a minimalist. With that said, in addition to working on the above, I want to share what it means to me to be a minimalist.

  1. I live to travel and explore.
  2. It’s about quality over quantity.
  3. Personal growth.
  4. To be Mike and nothing more, nothing less.

I don’t think I will ever cross a finish line, after all this is not a race. But rather this is a life long journey. Being a minimalist is something that I need to work on every day and try to keep what’s important to me front and center.

One last thing I’d like to point out, no one is going to point their finger at you and say, “You’re not a real minimalist!” So work on the commonalities and then decide for yourself how to play out the rest.

I’d like to hear what you do to be a minimalist!

Peace Dudes!

Mike

Making the most of my time.

by Mike Aux-Tinee.

It never fails. Every day I hear someone say something along the lines of  “If there was only more time in the day…”.  We’ve all been there and know what the problem is – too much to do and not enough time to get it all done.

Time is finite. Once the big and little hand on the clock run past, it’s all she wrote. The good thing, when we wake up tomorrow, there is another twenty-four hours! And maybe that’s part of the problem, we know there is a tomorrow so we kick the can down the road with the mindset that we’ll get to it tomorrow or the next day…or the next day…

By putting off until tomorrow, what you can do today, you are missing out on some awesome opportunities to accomplish something remarkable, have a new experience and even improve your life. The thing is, most of us are wasting valuable time on activities like watching television (the average American watches an average of six hours of TV a day!), playing video games or surfing the internet. Doing these things (we believe) make us happy, helps us to unwind after a stressful day or stay connected

I was paddling along in the same boat. My routine was nearly set in stone and went something like this. After work, I would head home, make dinner, turn on the TV and spend the next three to four hours staring at whatever was on. That was my life five nights a week and Sundays was even worse. I was stuck in a rut.

When I did make it out of the house to run an errand like going to the grocery store, I rushed to get it knocked out and be back home in time to watch TV. This was starting to take its toll. Frustrated, I decided that it was time to make some changes and discover for myself what life was like… out there…

When I began, my goal was to simplify my life and make the most of everyday. It was time to change my focus and establish priorities. It’s about spending time wisely on meaningful and quality activities instead of sitting around like a bump on a log.

I did a little brainstorming and established my priorities and here is (a very short list) what I came up with:

  • spend time outside
  • exercise
  • personal projects
  • take care of me first

With my priorities set, I had to come up with the time and that was the easy part. I was spending almost 21 hours a week watching TV. Then came countless hours spent on the internet; checking e-mails, writing blog posts and surfing websites (sometimes I would do both at the same time!). I cut down my TV time from 21 hours to 2-4 hours a week (including Sundays). I keep my internet time down to 2 hours at a time. Once the buzzer goes off, it’s time to move on to something else.

But there is more…

I hate to rush around from one task to another. I never sit and relax, taking the time to enjoy whatever I am doing at that moment. I discovered another problem – scheduling and multitasking.

We have been conditioned. We must get as much in as humanly possible every waking minute of the day. Because heaven forbid that something or someone wait a minute longer than whats ‘acceptable’. You know what I am referring to. Someone comes to us wanting something and we are expected to put down whatever we are doing, give them what they want so they can move along. There is a fire and we have to put it out…

To remedy this, I work to prevent over scheduling and multitasking. I make sure that I cover the basics, eating, sleeping and work. I have streamlined my life, paying bills when they arrive, shopping and doing laundry the same days of the week. Once those things are done, it’s then time for me to do whatever I want. When I head out and ride my bike, there are no plans to do anything else afterwards (other than eating, napping and taking a shower). This way, I can take all the time I want.

There have been some very noticeable benefits to this change. I am calmer and not as stressed out. I have become better at getting things knocked out so I can move onto something more important. I do not feel the need to be everywhere, do everything and have learned, that it’s not about the quantity but the quality.

If you have any suggestions, ideas or would like to drop in and say hello, I’d like to hear from you!

Peace Dudes!

Mike

Another reason to use cash.

by Mike Aux-Tinee.

Don’t look now, but the next time you whip out that credit card for your next must-have splurge purchase, it may cost you an additional 1.5 to 4.0% of the purchase price. There’s nothing like a sucker punch coming right at you when you were least expecting it.

When I was watching the video, the thing that struck me as just odd was that the reporter kept saying ‘what I like about this…’ I got the feeling that she was not a reporter but a paid spokesperson for the credit card companies. I guess her bias is coming out front and center.

I wonder, when will we, the consumer, stand up for ourselves? Of course, why would we want to do that? Because we are being taken to the cleaners and here’s how.

1. Interest rates: Let’s face it, most of us are not paying off our credit card bill(s) every month. When this happens, more of your money is going to the credit card company’s bottom line and not your own bank account (They win and you lose!)

See, once expenses are taken out, what is left is their ‘profits’ and from the amount of money the credit card companies are making, business and profits are good! Since Visa and MasterCard are publicly traded companies, you can check for yourself just how much they are making. But prepare yourself… it’s A-L-O-T!

2. Other fees: This latest fee, the charge by retailers, is another sign of the companies making more money at your expense. In addition to this new fee, there are late fees, over limit fees, fees to avoid going over your limit and so on. I understand, these fees are ‘products’ that the company offers its customers. But it sounds more like taking candy from a baby…

I know. You are going to try to defend these fees because you think you cannot survive without your credit cards. But let me tell you a story.

A very long time ago, back before credit cards were as common as they are now, there were just two ways to pay for things: with cash or by check. Now, you had to keep track of how much money you had in the bank and could not spend any more than that. It was the perfect utopia for us consumers.

When credit cards came out, very few people could even get a credit card, let alone use it without two forms of identification! Again, we customers were in a state of nirvana!

But the problem was, those who wanted to make more money, called up our Federal Government and asked them to change the laws. At first, any loss or fraudulent use would come out of the business profits. The laws were changed and now it’s the customer’s problem. What happened you may wonder?? The number of credit cards in circulation just shot up (and so did the amount of our debt.) Everyone under the sun could and did get a credit card and that propelled us down the path we currently are on now. Where we are the losers and the retailers, credit card companies and banks are the winners. I know, leaves a bad taste in your mouth…

But there is a way out. It’s going to take a little adjustment on your part, but the end result will put more money in your bank account.

1. Once and for all pay off what you owe and never look back.

You may think this is easier said than done. If you are like millions of Americans, you could have several thousand to over ten thousand dollars of combined debt. The thing is, you might not be able to pay it off in the short-term, but you can in the mid to long-term.

I was in your position, being hit with fee after fee and I decided to get off the hamster wheel. I paid off what I owed, transitioned to using cash and changed my life dramatically! If you need help, I wrote a book about what I did titled, Islands of Happiness.

2, With a little planning, use cash or pay by check.

Once all of my debt was paid off, using cash required just a little planning. I created a budget and stuck to it. You may have to ask if you can pay by check and might get some weird looks, but it can be done.

There are going to be those who attempt to label you… Maybe they will say you are overreacting, or are thrifty (which is a compliment to me) or say – how about you move into the 21st century like the rest of us. Whatever is said, ignore them one hundred percent. This is about protecting yourself and your money. Doing these things are just as cool as they were then.

Why do I want you to do this? Well, when you run the numbers the amount of money you are losing to fees and interest is a staggering amount. Don’t believe me, then just add up those numbers and let it sit on the paper and stare back at you. It’s hard to sit there and think what you could be doing with the money (maybe a vacation, take a class or just save the money!)

I want you to take back control of your life and the first step in the process is realizing there is more to life than the story you’ve been given.

If you do pay off your debt and follow my advice, I’d love to hear from you!

Peace Dudes!

Mike

My resolution – to not make a New Year’s resolution.

by Mike Aux-Tinee.

With two holidays down and just New Year’s left, I am looking forward to putting this year in the books. I’ve accomplished a lot this year: I became debt free in March. I traveled to Venice and Lake Como in August. Islands of Happiness came out in November. I have changed what I eat, exercised more and worked to improve my happiness. Not too shabby of a year!

With so much accomplished, one would think that I am spending every waking moment hovered over a Cray Mainframe Supercomputer trying to figure out a way to manipulate the time continuum so I could fit even more into my life in 2013 (well, just to let you know… I forgot the password to the security door…)

I know it’s an ice breaker at holiday parties to ask ‘what are your New Year’s resolutions?’. Every time I ask that question, the flood gates break open and I am barraged with a near perfect (no breath) run-on sentence. I walk away not knowing what the hell the person wants to do… (so I’ve stopped asking).

I’ve decided to make a resolution to not make a New Year’s resolution. So why am I doing this? Well, they are usually abandoned, busted, and broken some time in the second or third week in January anyway. You know this happens, I know this happens so how about we be realistic. I don’t want to experience failure so early in the year. It’s a motivation thing. And to keep me motivated all 365 days next year, here is what I come up with instead:

To work at improving my life and happiness…

I know, that could be considered a resolution, but let’s not split hairs here. It’s about making 2013 better than 2012. It gives me the flexibility to make adjustments and to not feel guilty if (or when) I change course and try something different.

I hope you play it safe on New Year’s Eve!

Peace Dudes!

Mike

Minimalism is not an instant utpoia.

By Mike Aux-Tinee.

It’s unrealistic and irrational to expect minimalism (or for that matter any other ‘ism’) to solve all of your problems.

I understand that you are in a tight spot and quite desperate to find a ready-made solution. You want answers and you want them now (this is a symptom of your problem).

It’s time for some tough talk. The first thing is, there are no quick and simple answers in life. Secondly, the only viable solution stares back at you in the mirror everyday. Lastly, it’s going to take a commitment and some sacrifices on your part to right the ship and make it sea worthy again.

I know that’s not what you wanted to hear. After all, I am supposed to be the expert and provide you the answers… I believe in showing someone how to fish so they can feed themselves for a lifetime…

To get things going, I’m going to ask a question. What is the problem that is dominating your life and causing so much disequilibrium?

It’s time to be honest. To end once and for all the someone or something out of my control blame game. I believe each of us creates a majority of our problems and many of them could have been avoided if we just stopped and thought more about what we were about to do.

I know where you are right now because I have been there. I had to acknowledge many of the things I was doing were causing nearly all of my problems. It was tough to admit that I needed to make some changes if my life was going to get better. I had to buckle down to put my life on the path it is now. (just as a side note, becoming a minimalist did help solve – but not all – of my problems).

Here are just some of the things that I had to come to grips with:

I had too much debt that I could not pay back if (or when) I lost my job – which did happen.

I had no concept of self-reliance.

I was afraid to say no.

I was afraid to speak up and defend myself.

What I did to right my ship was:

I had to define who I was, who I wanted to be and to commit myself to making the changes.

Money (actually debt) was a problem. I looked at what I really needed and what I didn’t and learned to learn to live below my means.

I defined what made me happy.

 

You must accept enough is enough. In economics it’s called the law of diminishing returns. While it is normally used in production, I think it’s very relevant. Basically, (and I am paraphrasing), the more inputs there are will bring about a lower return. So how does this apply? Well, by simply piling more and more on top will not yield the return (or outcome) you are hoping for. Doing this, you are just burying the problem, while it’s out of your sight, it still exists.

It’s time to commit yourself 100% to the different life you want. I hope you come to the conclusion and understand that only you can make things different and ultimately better.

If you need more help, I wrote a book about what I did to change my life.

Peace Dudes!

Mike