Intentional Economics Lesson: do you know what you are talking about?

I few years ago I took a random IQ test and scored 126.  I’m not sure how accurate it was as it classified me as an “entry-level” genius.  While I’m not sure what the means, I feel smart but never too smart to grow and learn more. Watching the news on TV the other day, I had a vision of a countdown…126…125…124…I realized the news was stealing my IQ.  I was actually getting stupider.  My readers are smart, at least smart enough to read blogs about personal development and awesome achievement. The news depicts “average” society as moronic and self-defeating.  The Occupy Movement of a few years ago was hyped as a social movement to change the future of banking in America.  It was, however, simply a fest of dirty, unemployed hippies, bored and looking to score. No one is suggesting the Occupy People are a fair look at the “average” person.  Average people have much more influence and are much more ignorant in areas that impact society in so many more ways.

Basic economics has disappeared from the knowledge base of our youth.  The rising cost of college education in America is a direct result of ignorance and bad economic policy.
Face of the Tea Party Movement 16

Face of the Tea Party Movement 16 (Photo credit: theqspeaks)

Many years ago, a small percentage of people were able to attend College.  Partially due to intelligence and partially due to cost factors, many people were excluded.  Colleges had small staffs of professors and manageable costs.  Then, in the 1950’s, the government got into the student loan business. As more people were suddenly able to attend, the supply related to the demand sharply declined.  What happened next?  School started getting more expensive.  The response over the years from the electorate and elected officials has been to raise student loans.  Since 2/3 of all students attending have loans, the government is a major player in the college industry.  Raising the student loan amounts, thus raising the demand, does not raise the supply.  Schools can simply pocket more money and raise the cost of attendance.  This is something we may certainly see with Obama Care.
As the government becomes growingly influential in the “free market”, it essentially becomes “the market”.  Government throwing more and more money at an industry does little more than increase the cost.
Take for example my recent day care shopping.  If I call the local daycare provider as Mr. Normal suburban dad looking for daycare, I’m going to be charged a price the provider thinks is profitable, yet possible.  If I call as Mr. Government, with a  trillion-dollar budget, the provider is going to charge me a price that is profitable, yet not possible for anyone without a trillion-dollar budget.  Those numbers are vastly different based on Mr. Normal verses Mr. Government.  The government should not be in the business of dramatically dictating market prices; that was never the intention of the founding fathers and it’s a dangerous road to venture.
     This post is not an article against student loans or any government involvement at all (although we can discuss my libertarian leanings another time), it’s more about the need to develop a better understanding of economics and influence within society.  1 + 1 equals 2 whether you are black, white, asian, gay, straight, Martian, Canadian, or even a gay handicap Martian who is 2/3 American Eskimo and a descendent of slaves born of gay parents.  We can decide to redistribute money for a greater good and to help people who need it for various reasons.  As a society, we cannot accept being duped into thinking there’s only a nominal cost when that simply isn’t true.
     As your influence grows, you are responsible to educating those within your sphere of influence.  Ignorance within an organization as well as society as a whole is dangerous.  If you don’t understand the basic math of economics and are unwilling to learn, most likely you won’t gain much more influence than your one vote.  Seek understanding.  Speak with confidence, determination, and a real understand of your influence and the influence of the big players.
Recommended Reading:

2. Basic Economics: Tomas Sowell

There’s a ton more to read, listen to, and absorb.  Be intentional about the world around you and have a desire to understand.

Baseball is Perfectly Imperfect, and so are YOU!

 Baseball, is a game of intellect, talent, and timing.  Baseball, unlike many other sports, plays out each and everyday to the bitter end.  There is no rush to the finish, no ticking time clock, simply 9 innings (or more for extra inning games).  Widely noted as a national sport in the United States by the late 19th Century, baseball is a game of tradition and history.  Terms such as “the integrity of the game”, or “purity of the sport” are often thrown into the mix. Baseball is a great reminder of how life “should work” and how it “actually works”. The infamous asterisk of Roger Maris’ 61 home run in one season record stood for many years as a reminder of changes and the effects of those changes moving forward.  The baseball season had been 154 games before 1961.  Purity, perfection, equal opportunity? Not really.
[Eddie Cicotte, Chicago AL, at Polo Grounds, N...

[Eddie Cicotte, Chicago AL, at Polo Grounds, NY (baseball)] (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

There is a  human attempt at perfection, yet the beautifully perfect imperfection of the umpires captures the essence baseball more than anything.

On any given day, an umpire can call the same exact pitches balls or strikes.  Of course, only technology can tell us that they are “exactly” the same pitch location.  The human eye isn’t that good.  Instant replay is making a small impact on limited plays in the game, but looks to remain at the behest of the umpires; the very human umpires who blew calls such as the obvious out that would have ended a perfect game in 2010 for Tigers pitcher Armando Galaraga.  The human umpires who didn’t see the fan who clearly reached over the fence in the 2006 ALCS to “assist” Derick Jeter’s home run effort.  I am not advocating any changes though. Even my beloved Angels were affected in 2005 by a terrible call that had the entire west coast scratching it’s head while the Chicago White Sox got an extra out and went on to win…and win…and win.  While the Angels went home to fish. It’s Baseball’s utter humanness that connects us to the game.  Every team and every player is so ridiculously close to greatness, yet so far.  A batter getting a hit 25% of the time is mediocre.  A batter getting a hit 30% of the time is great.  That’s roughly 25 hits difference or 1 per week.  How about a championship team winning 95 games being touted as great?  The team at home watching the playoffs won less than 6% less games, and is forgotten.
     Life, like baseball, is a game of inches.  So often, it’s the little things that separate the great from the mediocre.  The only way to separate the truly great teams from the mediocre is to play for a long time.  Somehow, 162 games seems reasonable.  Life is the same.  My beloved Angels won the World Series in 2002.  They won 99 regular games.  They lost 14 of the first 20 games.  Instead of giving up, they showed up. Every day.  Baseball teaches us that our humanness; our imperfections are what make us perfect.  We work through them and keep humanity humanly pure.  So the point of all this is to show up everyday.  We live in an imperfect world that sometimes throws us a “stinker”.  We just ride that out and show up again. If you’re batting .250 in life, find a way to get 1 more hit per week.  This might be seminars, books, sales calls, or whatever else you can do to make incremental progress.
What are you going to do today to get that “extra hit”?
Rocco De Leo

No Man is An Island: A Guide to Intentional Christianity

One of the most uplifting and motivating minds of the last 30 plus years is Zig Ziglar. His methods, grounded in a deep faith and a spirit of charity have greatly impacted me as well as millions of others in sales and leadership alike. His stories draw you in, pull on your heart and push you toward the excitement of victory.  He is best known for his doctrine of success.

No Man is an Island - John Donne

No Man is an Island – John Donne (Photo credit: mark(s)elliott)

He says ” You can have everything in life you want if you will just help other people get what they want”. Achieving awesomeness in life is not simply about productivity and execution.  There are a thousand different “takes” on balancing the key areas of life: work, faith, family, etc.  For the Christian, this must be more of a “centering”.

If God is not the center of our life, all the worldly success is useless.

 The anxiety of a wandering Christian is paralyzing, terrifying, and absolutely destructive toward the journey toward awesomeness.  Perhaps Ziglar was familiar with the 1955 Merton Classic No Man is an Island.  Tomas Merton, a Trapist Monk, known best for his autobiography The 7 Storey Mountain, writes on the virtues of contemplative prayer and the intentionality of the will.  Interesting and purely coincidental juxtaposition, I re-read this book a week after finishing Don Miller’s Blue Like Jazz.  Miller, much less formal than Merton, shares a very real experience Merton wrote about over half a century earlier.  We can all relate to wanting to want to love God, but not always feeling it.  Merton articulates this challenge and posits a road to healing that we walk when we truly begin to face our relationship with God:

It is not enough to do the will of his because his will is unavoidable. Nor is it enough to will what he wills because we have to. We have to will his will because we love it.

Perhaps Merton’s theological version of fake it ’till you make it is best summed up in this thesis:

…since no man is an island, since we all depend on one another, I cannot work out God’s will in my own life unless I consciously help other men to work out His will in theirs.

Merton is laying out the opportunity for us to intentionally center ourselves on God.  First, he says we cannot simply run into God’s will. It doesn’t “count” if we accidentally do it.  The Feed America campaign at Target is nice, but doesn’t constitute an intentional act of God’s will on our part.  Also, going to Mass on Sunday because as Catholic’s we have to, is not enough.  To attain that desired relationship with God, we have to love the will of God.  Our intentions ultimately dictate our actions and our awesomeness. His second statement tells us how.  We must love others so much, that we consciously and intentionally help them find and achieve God’s will in there lives.  This is what Mother Teresa survived on for years in Calcutta. This is what drove Pope John Paul II out of bed for so many years through the pain of Parkinson’s. This is the new starting line on our spiritual journeys.  Helping others through our prayer and our physical actions.  Start here and God will lead the way.
Who are you going to help today?



Celebrating the Fourth of July with Rush Limbaugh And Karl Marx

I remember the Fourth of July much the same as many of my readers. Fireworks used to be “firecrackers”.  Dad would find one of those traveling Fireworks stands in front of the local supermarket and purchase a collection of pyrotechnical joy for us.  I remember closing out  an evening of picnics and fireworks with the lit up stick that we would parade around and sword fight.   Then the night would be over and back to normal life, since dad usually had to work the next day. The Fourth isn’t much different today.    The usual grill-side conversations are about the history of America and the gratefulness we feel toward our troops.  While these are key to consider when celebrating our nation’s birthday, freedom as a treasured and delicate state need to be discussed with a sense of urgency.

McGill student vote mob 2011

McGill student vote mob 2011 (Photo credit: Adam Scotti)

Rush Limbaugh reincarnated Karl Marx’s use of the term “useful idiot” when he began discussing “low information voters” during the 2012 Presidential campaign.  Strange bedfellows, Marx and Limbaugh.  Rush points to a scary trend in today’s society.  As a ditto head myself (for those of you in Rio Linda, that means I like Rush).  You, however, can completely disagree with him and should still fear the growing power of the low information voter.

Low information “voter-itis” is a disease that slowly leads to Truth Decay and ultimately  destroys  freedom.

The low information voter believes everything he hears on TV, the radio, and especially the Internet. A Pencil is just a pencil to this person.  It fell out of the sky and into his pocket as the shiny and completed lead tipped tool he now holds.   It was never a tree that needed to be harvested, transported,  and packaged as pencil.  It never needed to be shipped to Staples with lights, air conditioning, plumbing (for when you run in haste to use their bathroom – please leave a quarter on the sink), and  employees with mandated health benefits and a federally mandated minimum wage.  The famous Milton Friedman reference to the pencil as an illustration of basic economics makes no sense to the low information voter.  The low information voter wants the government to send him free pencils.  Government pencils don’t involve feeding the corporate fat cats at Staples or chopping down innocent trees.  Economics is much more than the 11th grade class taught by the football coach (he had to teach SOMETHING).  Economics has consequences.  Usually the unintended consequences become the political footballs tossed around by pundits and politicians.  The thing is,  politicians are smart.  They know that forcing a fee (AKA tax) on grocery bags does nothing more than raise the cost of groceries.  It doesn’t matter because the low information voter sees it as a noble act to save the environment.  Since the useful idiot can’t see full picture, there is no downside.  Free healthcare? Who needs to read the bill?  Nancy Pelossi said it best when she said we will figure out what’s in it when we pass it.   To the low information voter, there’s no downside to free healthcare.  You may agree with taxing grocery bags or with Obama Care.  That’s not the issue.  The issue is the low information voter raises an image of the German voter checking a box of approval next to Hitler’s name.  He told a popular story for the time and place, and the people were too naive to see the blurry edges around the consequences.  Freedom comes from knowledge.  True freedom comes the ability to critically think and form a true understanding of the total impact of decisions.  With that freedom comes the courage to challenge ideas that contradict our values, and that is the core of American liberty.

If you are a recovering low information voter or suffer from its more deadly form of useful idiocy, take these few steps to begin your recovery.

1. Read a book.  Start with anything.  Gradually begin to read history and economics.  Read about the concepts and theories (ie, how is Hayek different than Keynes?).  Then read for yourself and discover the differences (upsides and downsides).  Understand the politics of the authors and their agendas.  Let the books inform you rather than form you.

2. Don’t watch junk:.  Limit the Jersey Shore and Jerry Springer indulgences.  They don’t add value.  Enjoy if you must, but the 12 hour Jersey Shore marathon comes at a cost to your recovery.

3. Don’t stop at the headline: Read the entire article before you form an opinion.

4. Decide for yourself:  Did you cringe at the name of Rush Limbaugh?  Many people do.  Another name that drives people crazy is Glen Beck.  The thing is, most people who have a deep negative opinion about these guys have never listened to them.  “Rush is  addicted to pain killers,  and Glen Beck was fired from Fox News for being crazy.”  That’s all they know.  You don’t have to agree with them to respect the level of developed thought and dedication to the facts.  Give them a listen.  They might just surprise you.

5. Pay taxes: For my young readers out there, wait until you pay taxes.

Wait until your $1,000 check comes in at just under $700 dollars.  This is perhaps, the most valuable economics lesson of them all.

We pay taxes, as we should to maintain the basics.  It’s of course the “basics” that we constantly argue over.  Every “basic” has a cost.

America has asked for a special gift on her birthday.  She wants to assure continued freedom for her people.  The means to freedom is curing the disease of low information “voter-itis”. Unfortunately the treatment is not a covered benefit under Obama Care (it clearly states that in paragraph 1402.456 subsection A/C of document 1.24 in the revised new interpretation under Federal Law 5.44). In case any real low information voters are actually reading this far; that was a literary mechanism known as sarcasm.  You are free! Happy Fourth of July.

Rocco De Leo

Be a Faker and Remain Authentic


No Hunting (OR TRESPASSING) (Photo credit: Nathan James)

You’re asking yourself, ” how can a guy who published an article on AUTHENTICITY write an article about being fake?”. Keep reading.
You are in the midst of a good [not great] and productive life.  You are moving along nicely with a decent career, family, and some personal goals.  Yet, there’s something missing…fleeting.  You are staring down the barrel of a rather intimidating milestone age and hear nature’s time clock tick…tick…ticking away.  To be honest, When I say “you” I mean “me”…and “you”. With the birth of our 5th child, I have had an awakening.  This is why I am writing this blog.  You have these moments.  I have more to offer.  You have more to offer. Do you know how much Barrack Obama spent to become President in 2012?  Nearly a billion dollars.  Crazy?  For a job that pays $400,000.  Not crazy enough.  Mitt Romney spent nearly the same  NOT get the job.  Presidential candidates have their lives, and their family’s lives, torn apart, researched and flushed out.  We all know where all the bodies are buried.  Why do they put themselves through this?  Ego.  Not in the sense of I’m cool and you’re not.  Obama so believed the world must have him as President that he would endure almost anything.
 I’m assuming you are not running for president.  But, almost as intimating, you are or are trying to step out of your comfort zone and SAY something.  You are timid about pushing forth your dream, especially when you have yet to perfect your message. Permission has yet to be granted for you to “intrude” upon the world. You fear this vast land filled with great minds. You feel guilty just listening in on the conversation.  Like you don’t belong. You sit in the back of life’s classroom and half raise your hand to say something in the ongoing conversation of society.  Quietly you apologize, in essence telling the world that you are an intruder rather than an active and worthy participant.  Today, through my FAKE power and FAKE authority, I am granting you FAKE permission to speak.  Seth Godin, one of the most respected blogger/authors in the world was once a FAKER.  He granted himself persmission to speak.  It’s time for you to grant yourself permission.  You have something important to say.  The world WILL be BETTER for having heard your message.  FAKE your confidence until you make your confidence.  The world can’t wait for your confidence to catch up to your message.  We need you NOW.  SPEAK!
Rocco De Leo