Sunday, May 24, 2009

Rash of "Feel Good" TV Messages

There's no doubt about, America needs something to celebrate life and living to our fullest potential. That's why I turn to TV to get my dose of "living life to the fullest." I need a TV show that takes up an hour of my precious life to tell me to get up off that couch or out of that lounge chair and go sky-dive, or write a novel or marry the one you love. Thank goodness for the network shows or else I wouldn't understand that in these trying times of job losses, economic ruin, war casualties and overall insecurity, I need to stop and smell the roses or do a random acts of kindness or drink from the cup half full.

If I record the shows, then instead of giving up an hour or a half-hour, I only have to give up about 45 minutes or 22 minutes. I can speed through the commercials which will ultimately give me back some time but waste someone's advertising dollar requiring the ad company to lay off people because the client is not happy and possibly requiring the client to lay off people because their product isn't selling. Is Ford the only American car company because it placed its vehicles in Knight Rider, the TV Show? Can't skip through the placement during the whole TV show. But, alas, you can skip the whole TV show when it is brain numbingly stupid.

So, I'm trying to learn to not be an "armchair life liver." At times I have my moments like the really cool vacation when we are white water rafting Snake River...the same river that Evil Knievel jumped in the 70s. Or I feel like I'm living life when I'm at the homeless shelter serving food I cooked for them. Or when I'm playing with my dogs just for the pure joy of play.

Is optimism a genetic thing? I watched the Michael J. Fox documentary on optimism. Now, there's a guy who is definitely a glass half full guy! There are all sorts of studies going on now about optimism. In one study, there actually seems to be a genetic indicator in your DNA that indicates if you are an optimist or not. I'm not sure I believe that. I think you have to open your brain, your logical side, and your heart to see the good things in a bad situation. Perhaps it is a genetic disposition that allows you to change the way you think. On the flip side of that coin, it is so much easier to buy into the cup half empty scenario, especially if you are surrounded by negative people. Someone drives that giant bandwagon of doom and gloom and you can see the people running along side to jump on board.

I'm trying to optimistically look at the obstacles I need to overcome. I think I can make it over these hurdles. I have to accept that it is a work in progress. Somewhere along the journey of life, I've become a bit OCD. I think that in order to be successful I have to have everything available and ever obstacle resolved FIRST. And then I should be able to skip along the path and achieve the goals that I've set for myself.

Life doesn't work that way. Some obstacles are actually brick walls that you have to find a way around. You can't get over them but you need to take different routes. And sometimes the road around the brick walls allows you to see and smell flowers you've never seen before. Not from an armchair but from your "Feel Good" journey.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Things I've Learned in Vegas

Las Vegas is the land of opportunity, the land of hopes and dreams, the land of fantasy...the land of believing in yourself! Some folks "poo poo" Vegas as a den of sex, sin and stereotypical indulgence. I'm telling you, though, you can learn a lot about yourself and life lessons that everyone can use--even when they are not in Vegas.

1. You control your own life! The array of choices that Las Vegas gives you can be overwhelming for the week. Where do you go to gamble? Where do you go to eat? What shows do you go? How much money can you afford to entertain yourself with gambling? When do you stop? It is very easy to over indulge in Vegas. In fact, I think they hope you will. Which isn't all bad -- if you can keep in mind that you have the power to say yes or no. Sit through those boring timeshare talks knowing that at the end of the spiel, you will not be tempted and will say "no." You'll get a lovely night out or an invigorating day at the Spa all on someone else's dime. Of course, we are the proud owners of three timeshares (investing in our future vacations) including one in Vegas!

2. Believe in yourself! Vegas does have the ability to make your dreams come true. If you invest some money in yourself to go play poker or blackjack, you are not only building skills but you have the possibility to win the games. Look at professional poker tournaments today...the World Series of Poker gets larger and larger every year with everyday Joes and Jos showing up to play. Vegas offers other venues too like live Rock Band karaoke, outrageous roller coasters, and tournaments galore. You can even fly in Vegas in an indoor parachuting place. Embrace the fear and believe in yourself.

3. Math is always an important life skill. Vegas is all about the math...statistics and just plain arithmetic. I started playing penny slots on our trip to Vegas last October. I had no clue what I was doing nor that I had changed the penny ante to a nickel. Penny slots have multiple lines you can bet on and none of them seem to make sense to me. And then they fool you a bit and talk about how many credits you have...not how much money you have put into the machine or won or lost on the machine. I won a couple of hundred bucks on that slot and have no clue why. After I cashed out, I finally figured out that the nickel ante I was playing had been doubled and then multiplied by 15 lines. Each spin of the wheel cost me $15.00! That was way more than I ever played on a hand of Black Jack or a quarter or dollar slot machine. On the trip we just came back from, I was winning again on a penny slot that I had upped to a nickel. About an hour before we needed to leave for the airport, I won a jackpot. I called Andy up and said, "How much is 52,200 nickels?" He grumbled at me that he was playing Black Jack and to use the calculator on the iPhone. About a minute later he called back because he realized I just won over $2500. The night before I won about $700 which I thought was pretty darn skippy but this was wonderful! This was, take the dog training classes I want to take money or cut down some trees in the backyard money or buy that gadget that I wanted but didn't really need money. This was pay for the whole trip, all the shows, all the food, all of Andy's losses (from this trip and a couple of other solo trips to casinos in 2009) and still come out ahead!

4. Always have a plan. When Andy and I go to Vegas we have a gambling plan that we mostly stick to when playing. We have an "entertainment" allowance -- that's what we call our gambling money. It's up to you if you want to play it all on the first day or have a limit each day. If you win, you cash out and start with that starter "entertainment" money. With slots, it is easy to keep track of what you are starting with and cashing out with. With the real people games like poker or Black Jack, it is harder to cash out and remove yourself from the temptation to not win more. I remember the first time I gambled with Andy was at a Black Jack table on our honeymoon cruise to Bermuda. As fast as I could win, Andy was taking my chips. We seem to have a yin yang win/loss ratio. When I'm losing, he's winning and when he's losing, I'm winning.

5. Know when to walk away from the table. Like old Kenny Rogers says, "You gotta know when to fold 'em." This is not just a Vegas gambling lesson but a useful skill in the real world. Don't gamble with anything that you can't walk away from. It's harder to negotiate on a salary when you don't have a job but ultimately you have the power to say yes or to walk away from the table.

6. Leave on a high note. Who doesn't love George Castanza from TVs classic show, Seinfeld? Remember his philosophy to leave on a high note? He would make a contribution (no matter how big or small) and leave on that contribution. After I won my big jackpot, I had to be paid the jackpot by a slots manager rather than getting a cash out ticket. I think because Uncle Sam wanted his share (I had to fill out a tax form). The slots manager was a little amazed I took the winnings and cashed out the machine and walked away. It was great leaving Vegas on a high note!

Maybe I'm just a control freak but lately I've been totally aware that my every action is determined by a decision I make. I make the choices that control my destiny and every decision is important. I can choose to be positive about life or I can choose to wallow in my shoulda, woulda, couldas. I can choose to bet one penny at a time or I can max bet -- bigger risk but bigger payoff.

Ahhh Vegas! You are the land of opportunities, the land of hopes and dreams, the land of fantasies. You are the epitome of self-fulfillment and choice. Oh, and thanks for the big jackpot!