How to Co-Exist with Emotional Parasites—A Cultural Epidemic

A lot of my blog readers have been reaching out to me and asking me to further explain my definition of “emotional parasites.” They ask me how they can identify who these potentially disruptive people are. The more important question they should be asking is how and why they are so harmful to one’s success.

How does one identify and protect oneself from these so-called predators? Like colds or viruses, people tend to attract these types of “parasites” (e.g. emotional vampires) when their self-esteem or emotional guards are down. Like a magnet, we tend to attract those individuals that seem more than willing to aid in our self-loathing rather than challenge us to get out of our own way. The boggled and debauched, as I liked to call them, are unhealthy, dysfunctional people that often intentionally or unknowingly manipulate or use others for their own personal entertainment or distraction. These people tend to deflect their own negative self-worth rather than deal with their own self-sabotaging issues. They often pretend to be concerned or supportive of an unsuspecting victim’s uncertain or negative circumstance, but, in reality, they silently gain satisfaction and enjoyment by disclaiming and intentionally diminishing the success, spirit or character of their unsuspecting target.

To make matters worse, these emotional parasites will even go as far as making their victims feel guilty, and even responsible for their needs, playing on their guilt or misguided loyalties. I cannot begin to tell you how emotionally debilitating these cowardly people can be. They rarely own their own crap. They rarely apologize when wrong, and most importantly, they rarely respect YOUR needs, goals or requests unless it somehow benefits their own short-term purposes.

“When you say ‘yes’ to others, make sure you are not saying ‘no’ to yourself.” ~ Paulo Coehlo

Like anything important in your life, you always need to weigh the pros and cons. This especially holds true regarding the people you choose to include in your life. As I said earlier, the emotional parasites often tend to strike when you are most susceptible so I want to share three different scenarios that I have experienced that may make you more aware in the future:

1. The Bait and Switch – Unfortunately, there are individuals you will come across that have become master manipulators.  They study you and learn very quickly how to make you feel comfortable in their presence. They often tell you what you want to hear, pretend to like the things you like, or worse, create a false sense of security so that you take their bait. The only problem is…their actions are not sustainable over time because they are not being authentic to who they are. They are simply trying to get you to befriend them or, even worse, fall in love with them. NEWS FLASH: These manipulators have an agenda! So, you need to put their words on mute and study their actions. If you ask them questions and they become defensive, clearly you have unearthed a chink in their deceptive armor.  If this uncomfortable moment occurs, do not apologize; just continue to trust your instincts, keep your eyes open and be aware of any future inconsistencies.

2. Dismissive of needs – Recently, I witnessed a good friend of mine who reached out to a group of so-called friends requesting space and time to re-collect his thoughts while going through his tunnel of transformation. In the past, my friend had hit some tough times and these same so-called friends gleefully cheered him on by supporting his bad decisions and choices simply because it fueled their own unfulfilled needs. Yet, when my friend finally figured out that his choices were no longer productive in helping him find his success, he decided once again to reach out to these same so-called friends for support and understanding. Lo and behold, some actually became irate and dismissive with him because he changed his mind about how he had been leading his life—the same life they had been cheering him on with because it fulfilled their needs, not his.

3. Defensiveness (yeah, but you did this…) The last red flag that I would like to bring to your attention is a parasite’s failure to apologize.  Have you ever noticed when you call someone out on something you did not like, rather than receiving a simple apology from that person, you get a defensive response? It is almost like they are pissed off that you called them out on their agenda. In any healthy relationship, there are going to be times when you intentionally or unintentionally do something that upsets or hurts the other person. At this time, the correct response is to own and acknowledge your actions and not use it as yet another opportunity to point out an additional flaw or weakness because someone made you feel uncomfortable.

At the end of the day, an emotional parasite is simply projecting their fears. A successful person learns to manage their fears, as well as their relationships.

As I share in my books, Demystifying Success: Success Tools and Secrets They Don’t Teach You in High School and Demystifying College Success: 45 Tips to Skyrocket Your Success from College and Beyond!, there are several reasons why successful people learn how to protect and cultivate healthy relationships and, at the same time, navigate around unhealthy people in order to achieve their desired outcomes.

I am hoping that the information and clarification I have provided in this post will allow you to recognize the warning signs early so that you can continue to grow your success.


Now that you have rung in another new year, you are probably asking yourself, “Where did all my time go?” Others like to say, “Time is short”, “Time is money”, “Time heals all wounds”, “The time is now to help” but most importantly, time is the only thing you can never get back! Cars, houses, money, and jobs are all replaceable. That is why time should never be taking for granted or squandered, as I explain in my book Demystifying Success: Success Tools and Secrets They Don’t Teach You in High School.

bookThroughout the book, I provide you with compelling theoretical and practical knowledge that reinforces why it’s now T.I.M.E. (Timing, Intentions, Motivation and Empowerment) for your new found Success.

Timing, which I also refer to as identifying opportunities, is something that I discussed in my blog Sliding Doors for Success. To become successful, you need to always enhance your awareness in order to attract new and exciting opportunities into your life. To help ensure that you take advantage of such opportunities, you need to take the time to really focus on what you want to achieve or accomplish (be as specific as possible) in both the short and long term. Recognizing your passions, desires and goals will help you to distinguish and align profitable opportunities that will enhance your outcomes for success.

Intentions help you to reinforce why you are pursuing such passions, desires and goals, which also serves to confirm your ability to pounce on these opportunities whenever they arise.  As I discuss in my blog Success Is Never Being Afraid to Ask Why!, most people today simply live life in a world of “how”. “Just tell me how to get the job” or “how do I make money?” or “tell me how to do this and I will just do it.” “How” is the ‘poster-word’ for status quo! There is no creativity in how. “Why” will empower you with the confidence and creativity to challenge the status quo and go beyond the “how”. In my experience, truly successful people always go the extra mile to figure out the “why” because it enables them to consistently recreate their successes over and over again.

Motivation represents the action behind your success. It is the process of aligning internal passions, desires and goals with external resources (mentors, knowledge, financing, etc.) in order to achieve the desired outcomes for success.  Many successful people often create what author Napoleon Hill describes in his book, Think and Grow Rich, as Masterminds, a group of hand-picked individuals that provide advice, support and even financial resources that help enhance one’s chances for success.  In the article, Five Secrets for Growing Success, that you can receive for free when you sign up for my newsletter, through my website,, I explain why successful people often attract mentors or others for support in times of uncertainty or despair. Your mastermind can be a combination of both mentors and/or others (e.g. accountants, lawyers, etc.) that serve as excellent role models and/or sounding boards. They not only model the way for your potential success, but they also serve as great resources for information and advice. Their input can help you to choose the appropriate action steps to take toward achieving your short-term and/or long-term success.

Empowerment is what I like to refer to as your ability to confidently trust your instincts to ensure that your decisions positively impact your desired expectations and probable outcomes for success. Too often, people get swayed by various negative or unsupportive comments made by others despite what their own instincts might be telling them to do. They often allow others to ‘get inside their heads’ and thus, overthink, or even worse, predict or forecast how others might respond or react to their decisions or ideas. Unfortunately, these people rarely proceed as they initially intended, either out of fear of another’s reaction, or even worse, to appease the other person at their own expense.

“If you tell people what you want to do, they’ll probably help you do it.” ~ W. Clement Stone

Cast your vision for the new year to anybody who will listen. Successful people “go for it!” They check their fears at the door. They trust their instincts by spotting the opportunities and then re-affirm their intentions to motivate and empower themselves to take the necessary actions steps. As a result, they make necessary decisions that lead to probable (not possible) outcomes for success. The sooner you begin to incorporate these T.I.M.E. success concepts into your 2017 goals, the sooner you will begin to see big results in your future success.

‘Tis the Season to Be Aware!

As the holidays quickly approach, I want to caution you to be extra aware as to how your spending often reflects and impacts your inner mood and perception of yourself. In several of my recent blogs, I have shared my thoughts regarding America’s obsession with financial obesity, one’s obsessive and self-sabotaging need to constantly overspend and remain financially unhealthy.

The holidays often affect one’s mood positively or negatively. It’s time to reflect upon all the great things that have been attracted into your life, as opposed to getting all caught up in the self-defeating negativity, that often results from dragging yourself down with the potentially false idea that there have been no significant changes this year.

The retailers and advertisers strategically time their can’t-resist offers, discounts and other attention-getting techniques during the holidays to exploit a person’s emotional outcomes. As a result, we often tend to become blinded by the supposed emotional gratification that comes with spending. Yet we also tend to neglect our focus on the needed fiscal responsibilities that, if not kept in check, could seriously derail one’s future success.

bookIn my book, Demystifying Success: Success Tools and Secrets they Don’t Teach You in High School, I dedicate a chapter of my book to explaining good savings habits, an important concept you need to start adopting from an early age. This skill helps you to become a better money manager, which will help you to constantly generate income and ultimately create new wealth opportunities for success.

Here’s an important concept to raise your awareness of, especially as you begin to plan your holiday shopping list: a good understanding between ‘good debt’ versus ‘bad debt’. Bad debt includes any form of debt that requires you to pay interest on any monies that you borrow from a lender in order to either purchase or acquire something that will never generate any possible revenue (profits) for you in the future. Good debt is when there are some times when it is okay to borrow money from a bank, investor or credit card company, but ONLY if you use this borrowed money to purchase things that will ultimately help you to generate more revenue (profits) in the future and restore the original amount borrowed plus any interest required to the lender. Most importantly, you need to learn from an early age that successful wealth creators acquire excellent money management skills in order to balance both types of debt and understand this distinction.

Within my chapter on Personal Finance, I also carefully explain the concept of FICO scores and how they may positively or negatively impact your future decisions and success. FICO stands for the Fair Isaac Company, named after the company that first created and computed this popular credit score. Banks and lending institutions rely on your FICO score as a way of determining how trustworthy you are in terms of managing your money and repaying your debts.

To end on a festive note this year, I highly suggest that you sit down and draft out a realistic budget for yourself before you begin indulging in your creative or last minute impulsive holiday shopping. Don’t get me wrong, being creative with your gift ideas can be both fun and inspiring, but you also need to keep your expectations and spending in check.  Too often, we carelessly choose gifts that we think others will want based upon unrealistic expectations or desired outcomes and we may go overboard. By taking the time to really sit down and carefully draft a manageable budget, you can still be creative. Simply choose something that you know the recipient would truly appreciate and enjoy (e.g. buying something fun that they would never think to buy for themselves or something that will be a nice reminder of you) that does not have to result in you spending a lot of money.

To help you get started, here are five questions to ask yourself before you decide to start spending your hard-earned cash or, even worse, incur any future unnecessary credit card debt and interest:

1. Why am I really buying this product or service?

2. How will I or the recipient use this product or service in the future?

3. How long do I plan to use this product or service before it becomes useless?

4. Does this purchase provide me with any immediate revenue-generating opportunities? And the hardest question of them all:

5. What would happen if I chose to wait another two to six months until I could truly afford to buy this purchase without using borrowed money (credit or loan)? If not, consider waiting, or to use an old cliché, “Sleep on it”.

Please remember, the financially obese are not broke; they are broken! Do not let fear or unfounded expectations prevent you from achieving the personal and financial success you desire.

I want to wish you a happy, healthy and successful holiday season.


If you (or your child)  are a junior or senior in high school, and you are still not sure what you would like to do after you (or your child) graduates high school, then you might want to consider pausing and weighing your options.

If you (or your child) is a “Millennial” (a young adult born between the years 1982 – 2004), then you are not only going to be considered a member of one of the most educated generations, but also one of the most indebted. Student loan debt has tripled since 1990, while earnings and jobs have stagnated for most college graduates.

According to a report from the Institute for College Access and Success, the average amount of student loan debt for the Class of 2013 was approaching $30,000 compared to just under $10,000 in 1993.








And to make matters even worse, over 8% of today’s college graduates are unemployed. Before the Great Recession of 2008 hit, only 6% of recent college graduates were unemployed. Back during the last year of the Clinton administration in 2000, this number was just 4 percent.

So why do I advocate Self-Economics over College? Because The U.S. Treasury Department and the Department of Education teamed up from 2010 to 2012 to assess financial literacy in U.S. high schools, and the results weren’t pretty: the average financial literacy score of almost 76,900 students in 2010 was 70 percent. 2011’s testing of about 84,000 students and 2012’s of about 80,000 students were both a point lower: 69 percent. Though Americans have struggled for decades with financial illiteracy, state curricula has not shifted much to address these educational gaps.

In fact, fewer than half of the states make high school students take economics classes, and just 13 require a personal finance class, according to a 2011 survey by the Council for Economic Education. The biennial survey also shows that just 16 states require testing in economics, three fewer than in 2009. This regression is noted in the survey summary, which points out that over the past several years, the trend toward teaching these subjects has slowed, and is “in some cases moving backwards.”

Yet despite all of the ongoing research and statistics, little effort or action has been taken by Washington and the nation’s Department of Education or the state Boards of Education across the country toward changing or addressing the way schools should be educating children to properly prepare them for the new financial and societal challenges that have been created by economic and social changes.

It should come as no surprise that like most middle-aged adults today, young and emerging adults who are now graduating college are also finding it hard to find work in the marketplace after graduation. Even worse, most are not prepared and feel ill-equipped to become financially independent, since the majority of their parents and teachers lacked the knowledge required to impart this crucial financial information to these Millennials.


In my book, Demystifying Success: Success Tools and Secrets They Don’t Teach You in High School, I have chosen to proactively educate today’s emerging adults to avoid the very financial pitfalls that are currently paralyzing and plaguing so many older adults. These young adults must be educated now with the appropriate information, tools and resources so they no longer follow blindly in the footsteps of the generations before them and perpetuate the continuing cycle of financial illiteracy in the United States. We must encourage them instead to develop new and self-reliant ways to succeed on their own terms. Moreover, we can positively impact their future personal and financial success by empowering emerging adults during their early, formative years to begin to think entrepreneurially and independently toward make better financial decisions earlier in their lives.

In the April, 24, 2012 USA Today article by Hadley Malcolm, “The Cost of Financial Illiteracy”, Annamaria Lusardi, an economics and accountancy professor and director of the financial literacy center at George Washington University, said, “If we live in a world where people are in charge of their own financial well-being … we have to equip people to deal with this individual responsibility.”

“Only about two-thirds (more than 2,000) of the total college and universities in the United States now offer a course in entrepreneurship. A smaller but growing number have entire sequences leading to an undergraduate minor, a master’s in entrepreneurship, or something similar,” said Judith Cone, Vice President of Entrepreneurship, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

It’s time to face the facts, most colleges and universities are no longer in any position to guarantee its students full-time employment in their chosen fields of study upon graduation anywhere near the amount of money they will need to pay off in educational debt. With that being said, doesn’t it make much more sense for you (or your child) to simple consider applying to a local community college as an “undecided” (or “undeclared”) major to avoid hefty tuition costs, or  pursue a dream job or career before finding yourself forced to take on a “whatever job” in order to pay back exorbitant student loans?

It’s time we all woke up and start embracing “Self-Economics”.  We must begin educating ourselves in the areas of financial literacy (personal finance and investing), personal development (a more theoretical approach [“the power of why”] to strategic and not emotional decision making),  and  entrepreneurship (which encompasses many of the elements of my T.I.M.E. Model) so we can all effectively compete in this new era of global uncertainty.

Maybe a better question is, what will happen if you don’t?

Dreams are for Bedtime, Goals are for Success!

The most important step toward achieving any goal is to TAKE ACTION!

Sadly, many people tend to confuse their dreams for their goals and never achieve their desired outcomes because they simply believe that if they only manifest a want or need it will simply materialize.

Unfortunately, many people’s manifested dreams are way too vague to be goals, and therefore, they lack the motivation to take any action preventing them from achieving any real success.

To help you get started on your own paths to success, I have created the following P.P.I.E. (Prioritize your goals; Plan your actions; Implement your plans, and Evaluate your actions and desired outcomes) checklist to help you organize your various actions steps for success:

1. What is your true passion or desire? – What is the one thing that keeps you up at night that continuously drives you to pursue your passion/desires? What must you tell the world that you believe will benefit all who will listen?

2. Create goals that lead you to live the life you desire (e.g., your passion) – Remember, goals require specific actions to be taken within a predetermined period of time in order to achieve your goals.

3. Clearly define your vision and purpose (e.g., mission) – Be very clear and specific about what you want to achieve when you define your vision and purpose. Make sure that your vision and purpose align with your passions and goals. It is extremely important that you communicate your goals in such a way that will allow other people to quickly understand and identify with your cause or goal.

4. Implement and evaluate your specific and realistic action steps– To help ensure that your action plan best aligns with your passions and goals, be very clear about your decisions regarding time (amount of hours you dedicate), money (the amount of money you invest in your goals) and people (who you choose to associate and/or reach out to) in order to accomplish your goals, as all three will either positively or negatively impact your outcome.

Equally important, make sure that you take the time to properly evaluate and adjust your action plan whenever necessary to ensure that you continuously achieve the results you desire.

In my books, Demystifying Success: Success Tools and Secrets They Don’t Teach You in High School, and Demystifying College Success: 45 Tips to Skyrocket Your Success from College and Beyond!, I discuss in great detail how prioritizing, planning, implementing, and evaluating your goals can help you better organize and attain your desired outcomes for personal and financial success.

Commencement Speeches: A Time for Inspiration


It’s that time of year to celebrate our youth as they graduate from high schools, colleges and universities.  We congratulate them and send them off into the “real” world, confident that they have the right tools and skills they’ll need to survive and thrive on their own. But do they?

According to a recent study by the consulting firm, Accenture, a new poll showed more than half (57%) of 2011/2012 college grads said finding a job was difficult, but 39% had jobs by the time they graduated and another 42% were employed within six months of graduation. The new poll also showed that 44% currently live at home, 13% have student loan debts of $30K to $50K, and 32% of the college grads who are employed report their current annual salary is $25K or less, which is in sharp contrast to the expectations of the 2014 graduating seniors that also participated in the poll, according to Susan Adams (Forbes Magazine).

Despite all of the disappointing economic and educational statistics, high-profile colleges and universities continue to attract top name celebrities (Oprah Winfrey, Stephen Colbert, Sean “Diddy” Combs, The Dalai Lama) and politicians (President Obama, NY Mayor, Michael Bloomberg and Newark Mayor, Cory Booker) to deliver commencement speeches, which Today Show and legal analyst Lisa Bloom likes to refer to as disconnected greeting-card messages from successful, middle-aged adults who often tell young graduates who are insecure about their future employment options and pending debt concerns that “the world is their oyster” and “all they have to do is imagine”.

Pepperdine EDOL 3A year ago, I graduated from Pepperdine University’s School of Education and Psychology’s Organizational Leadership Doctoral Program. Like most graduates, I had to endure a procession of graduating rituals, which included both a commencement and keynote speech. Ideally, like most of my fellow graduates, I was hoping to hear words of inspiration and motivation from the speakers including some empowering anecdotes or wisdom intended to incite some type of awakening or higher purpose gleaned from the painstaking lessons learned and presented by the most anticipated commencement speakers of 2014.

Jackie Burrell ( published excerpts from her favorite 2012 graduation speeches that I also liked, which are as follows:

Neil Gaiman (award winning author and screenwriter) instructed graduates at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia not to fear mistakes, as making mistakes means you are getting out of there and trying new things. Gaiman said, “Now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make good art.”

I couldn’t agree more. As I wrote in my blog entitled “This is YOUR Life! Don’t Phone It In,” two of the biggest regrets I hear from a lot of adults today is that they wish they had listened to their own instincts and followed the life path they desired, rather than trying to please others, choose a job, or lead a life driven by fear. It’s okay to be afraid; just allow that fear to motivate you, not stifle you!

Peter Dinklage (Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning actor) told graduating students at Bennington College in 2012 that he spent years living in an apartment without heat and working at a data-entry job he hated before finally realizing, at age 29, that he had lost his way and that fear of change had derailed his dream of becoming a working actor. “The world might say you are not allowed to yet. I waited a long time out in the world before I gave myself permission to fail. Please don’t even bother asking. Don’t bother telling the world you are ready. Show it. Do it.”

The Pursuit of Happyness author, Christopher Gardner, experienced a pivotal moment one afternoon while heading back to his car in the San Francisco General Hospital parking lot after making a medical equipment sales call. A sharp looking, well-dressed man driving a red Ferrari asked Gardner for his parking spot. After looking at the man’s car, Chris told him he could have the spot, but he had to ask the man two questions:

“What do you do? and how do you do that?”

The Ferrari owner worked as an institutional stockbroker in San Francisco. The first time Gardner walked into a Wall Street trading room, he knew this was the place where he was meant to be.

As I share in my blog, “Demystifying the Obvious,” I have often believed that one’s ability to truly attract and create wealth is by finding a job that truly sparks and inspires one’s passion. Therefore, there should be at least one of the three reasons below why you should even consider pursing a particular job after graduation, as opposed to the 34% of the 2014 college grads that are prepared to accept their first job offer, or the 27% polled that would consider working in a different field other than their college major:

1. Quality of Life – Find a job that allows you to live in a location (community or environment) where you can thrive. Identify a job that lets you live the life you want surrounded by the people who support and admire you.

2. Challenge Yourself – Pursue a job or career where the work will challenge or motivate you, while also allowing you to grow from your experiences, and

3. Financial Reward – I intentionally listed this pursuit last. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for finding a career path that rewards you for all your hard work and efforts, but I just don’t believe that money should be the sole driving force for why you choose to pursue a job or career. Money should be viewed as opportunity, your financial means for continuing to pursue your passions. I honestly believe that if you follow your true passion, the money will follow.

So what final words of wisdom do I believe should be shared and bestowed upon the graduating class of 2014 by the majority of commencement speakers?

To quote from a Fox & Friends interview when he was asked a similar question, motivational speaker Larry Winget said, “What it really takes to be successful in the real world is taking responsibility. Your life, your results, your success, happiness, health and prosperity are up to you. When it turns out well, you get the credit. And when it doesn’t work out the way you want it to, well, you get the blame. It isn’t up to someone else to make sure you are successful; it’s always up to you, so be responsible.”

Furthermore, Chris Gardner’s mom said to him, “You can only depend on yourself. The cavalry ain’t coming.”

Learn to live within your means and become great wealth creators! Teach yourself now, as a young adult, to not only value, but to cultivate an emotional relationship with money. Think of money as an accelerator (gas pedal) in a car; the amount you save and manage is similar to the amount of pressure you can apply to your own financial accelerator. Good money management affects the speed as to how quickly you are able to reach your goals. The more you save and manage, the faster you will get what you want in life. To do this more effectively, one also has to be aware of reckless spending. Like reckless speeding, it could result in serious financial and emotional setbacks. Conversely, like experienced safe drivers, being financially aware of your surroundings (savings and spending habits) and driving within your own life’s speed limit (living within your means) will give you the freedom and opportunity to really enjoy your life’s beautiful scenery (family, friends, career, travel, etc.) without any undue pressure.

So are we sending young graduates off into the “real” world with the right tools and skills they’ll need to survive and thrive on their own, or are we witnessing a graduating class of pioneers that will confirm that the time has finally come for our country to embark on some new educational paradigm?

Right now is about celebrating success – in the form of graduation. After the last speech has been delivered and after the diplomas have been handed out and caps with tassels have been tossed, young graduates will face the world whether they are ready or not.

As I discuss in my new book, Demystifying Success: Success Tools and Secrets They Don’t Teach You in High School, It’s time to reinvent our approach to setting up Young Adults (ages 18-25) for personal and financial success in this new technological and global community after the commencement ceremonies have ended. It’s time for a new educational era of Self-Economics.

Congratulations to all 2014 graduates! Cheers to growing your future success!

Avoiding Short Cuts Will Enhance Your Future Success

Short Cuts derail successLast week, I responded to an Ask Larry question regarding the common mistakes people tend to make in life and I enumerated my reply in list form. I was inspired to write today’s blog based on #10,You think you already know how things work.” It made me think about short cuts.

Even though the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, if that straight line happens to take more time than we anticipated, we will forego the obvious and pursue a short cut. It will always be simple human nature for some to try to find hidden detours that will save them time and/or money to help expedite the results they want. Never mind the fact that they have prior knowledge of others unsuccessfully attempting this same short cut, or worse yet, believe they are the smartest person in the room and therefore, will clearly be the first to successfully complete such a unique undertaking. Their ignorance and/or arrogance usually overshadows their common sense and leads them to shun their instincts—shutting up that simple little voice in their head that reminds them that if they choose to pursue such a detour or undertaking, it will most likely fall under the category of, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is!” Yet despite their rational inner voice, people still manage to ignore their instincts, start their life engines (without a GPS), and embark down their own mental interstates only to find themselves lost and stuck in the middle of life’s nowhere.

Why the urge?! What possesses normal, intelligent, educated adults (young and old alike) to ignore basic common sense? It took me a mere ten years to answer this question, but before I share my answer, I want to tell you a true story.

Back in 1996, I discovered the stock market. Discount brokerage firms such as E-Trade, Ameritrade, and Charles Schwab were enticing the Wannabe Wealthy with a new platform called online trading. For only about a third of what traditional discount brokerage firms previously charged us for commissions, one could now go online, research their own stocks, and execute their own trades. America was in the middle of a raging bull market and we were the Captains of our own financial destiny—only a click or two away from financial freedom.

At this same time, I began studying the investment strategies of value investors, Ben Graham and his successful protégé, Warren Buffett. The tenets of both Graham and Buffett’s investing strategies were simply, be patient and wait for a company’s stock to become undervalued (or cheaper) compared to its fundamentals (e.g. financials) and then as Buffett likes to say, “Be greedy when others are fearful, be fearful when others are greedy.” Simple advice, straight forward… Success was around the corner!

Nonetheless, I chose to ignore these simple lessons, forego patience, and embark on my own investing strategy. Hey, it was a bull market, everyone was making money, and I was, afterall, the smartest person in the room. That lasted until March 10, 2000—the day when the so-called “dot-com bubble” finally burst. Through 2000-2001, those once high-flying, overpriced dot-com technology stocks started tumbling right along with my paper stock profits. Both were in utter free-fall. Here’s the crazy-irony of the story: on May 1, 2000, I attended the Berkshire Hathaway shareholder’s meeting and listened intently (or so I thought) to Warren Buffett as he answered an attendee’s question. When asked why Berkshire Hathaway was not investing in technology stocks, Buffett replied (as best as I can recall), “The Dairy Queen Dilly Bar will far outlast many of the dot-com companies.”

Sadly, I did not listen. I ignored my basic common sense because I wanted a quick fix. Like so many, I was insistent on taking my own short cuts.

The ten-year lesson for me was simple: stop taking short cuts. As in all aspects of life, there are no quick detours to success. To quote the great Opera singer, Beverly Sills, “There are no short cuts to any place worth going.” Success for normal, intelligent, educated adults (young and old alike) is patience, dedication, determination, and most importantly, persistence.

There is no such thing as an overnight success. It takes MANY years of hard work, learning, experimenting, and failing. Be patient and focused as you design YOUR sustainable life plan with realistic, attainable short-term and long-term goals. By avoiding unnecessary short cuts now, you will definitely enhance your probable outcomes in growing your future success.


It’s Never Too Early to Kickstart your Retirement Plans

Pot of GoldI was having lunch at one of my favorite hideaways, a little diner in downtown Los Angeles. I got into a great discussion with two guys in their late 20s and found out one of them was a fellow Indiana University Hoosier. Our shared Alma Mater made for a smooth transition into deeper conversation.

After we got through the usual niceties: “How did you find this place?”, “How long have you lived in LA?”, “What do you do?”–the usual ice-breaking chit-chat, I realized it was a good opportunity to take advantage of their openness and perspectives as young adults growing up in this new economic era.

Over the past few weeks, there have been several articles written (including my own blog entitledCommencement Speeches: A Time for Inspiration) which discuss important messages of inspiration and real-world experiences that should be imparted unto young college graduates, as they embark on their careers, hoping to have the right tools and skills to survive and thrive in these uncertain times.

Fortunately for the two young gentlemen, they both managed to land jobs in a very competitive industry, but more importantly (and impressively), jobs that actually related to what they studied in college. During lunch they shared their frustrations regarding reduced salaries compared to the salaries earned by their predecessors 10 years ago, the lack of financing to purchase their starter homes, their mistrust for the stock market and investing in general (other than real estate), and the fear that their generation will be the first generation that will be less well-off than their parents.

However, unlike their parents’ generation (when they were that age), twenty-somethings today are very concerned about their retirement options. “My dad would love to retire at 65, but he’s putting it off because of the swings in the aviation business. I’m concerned,” said JoAnne Farell, a 29-year-old web manager at a design firm in San Francisco who was interviewed by Jennifer Leigh Parker for an article called, “Why Even 20-Somethings Are Worried about Retirement.” Parker went on to cite a study by State Street Global Advisors that showed that Generation X (adults in their late 30s and 40s) are not nearly as prepared for retirement as the Baby Boomer Generation.

Unfortunately, concern is not translating into action. According to a CNBC article by Cindy Perman entitled “Gen Y and Retirement: Are Young People Saving?”, Today’s 20-year-olds (the “Millennials” or “Gen Y”) have witnessed and suffered from the unexpected economic and financial changes that have caused many older adults to delay their plans for retirement because they did not start their savings sooner. Yet despite these concerns and the realization that neither Social Security nor their companies will help them retire peacefully like their grandparents or great-grandparents, more than half (55%) of Gen Y-ers have not yet started saving for retirement, and 64% said they don’t even think about it, according to a retirement survey by Scottrade. Perman adds, Carrie Hibbs, a spokesperson for Scottrade exclaimed, “Of all the non-retired generations, including Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers, Gen Y is the leader in not saving; we call them Generation Procrastination!”

I respectfully disagree. If retirement planning was so easy, then why are so many adults between the ages of 40-60 in such financial turmoil? Many of today’s middle-aged adults lack the knowledge required to impart crucial financial information to young and emerging adults because the majority of their parents and teachers also lacked this same financial knowledge. So it should come as no surprise that like most middle-aged adults today, young and emerging adults who are now graduating college will also find it harder to become financially independent.

The reality is, there has been little effort or action taken by Washington D.C., the Department of Education, or even the State Boards of Education across the country toward effecting change by addressing the way schools should be educating children to properly prepare them for the financial and economic challenges that take place in the real world. Despite all the ongoing research and statistics that have been collected surrounding financial illiteracy among young adults, according to a 2011 survey by the Council for Economic Education, fewer than half of the states make high school students take an economics class, and just 13 states require a personal finance class. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, succinctly summed it up by stating, “We have a long way to go as a country.”

In light of the societal shifts created by rapid technological advances and a constant state of change and urgency, is it any wonder that young and emerging adults are questioning and challenging the unsustainable lifestyles they were raised to believe they’d inherit?

It is time we stop assigning blame and start fixing the problem. 

By implementing the following five basic steps (that I cover in more detail in my upcoming e-book on retirement), young adults will kick start their retirement plans early, and improve their probable outcomes for financial success.

1. Start saving a percentage of your monthly income–preferably 10%–in a savings account.

2. Create and manage a monthly spending budget to learn to live within your means.

3. Contribute to either a company 401(k) matching program, or standard IRA retirement plan, or both as early as possible and manage these accounts on a quarterly basis.

4. Pay off all credit card balances in a timely manner. If you cannot afford to pay off the total balance on the credit cards, do not incur the expense. LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS.

5. Be preventative: eat healthily and exercise regularly so you can avoid any serious costly medical problems that can derail your retirement plans later in life.

If you are a young adult reading this, I encourage you to get going on addressing the above suggestions as soon as you start earning an income–it’s never too early to start. If you think you aren’t earning enough to bother, you are mistaken.

You Don’t Have to Be Great to Start, But You Have to Start to Be Great” – Zig Ziglar

By becoming financially literate and implementing good financial discipline from an early age, you will establish lifelong habits that will enable you to retire confidently and with peace of mind. If you are no longer a young adult, I’ve got good news for you… These rules still apply–it is never too late to start growing your future success!

Navigating Common Pitfalls within the Workplace

Confusion for BlogI just read a great LinkedIn article by Jacki Zehner, CEO of Women Moving Millions, entitled Class of 2013: Be a Superhero! It was an article meant to inspire young and emerging adults to help them navigate common pitfalls that many graduates often ignore upon entering the workplace. After reading the article, I was excited to share Jacki’s story because it reminded me of my own journey that followed my graduation from Indiana University (IU) in 1990. I thought it would be inspiring to adults of all ages as well.

Jacki Zehner became the youngest woman and first female trader to become a partner at Goldman Sachs at the age of 32. During her 14-year career at Goldman, she rose from an analyst (at age 25) to associate, vice president, managing director, and partner, all while working as a trader and desk manager in mortgage-backed securities.

Like Jacki, I began my career with the Universal Music Group (UMG) at age 26. During my own 22-year career with the Universal Music Group, I rose from project coordinator to vice president of administration (MCA Records), and vice president of financial services (North America), all while overseeing recording and marketing administration, travel, and shared services for all North American record labels and UMG operating companies.

Also similar to Jacki, I too began to feel restless in my career, and I was ready to pursue new opportunities.  I did not realize just how restless I had become until I left my job and had the realization that I had overstayed my welcome.

Italicized below are Jacki’s suggestions from the article, followed by my own experiences (that I wished someone had shared with me following my IU graduation) to help you navigate career-sabotaging pitfalls and recognize opportunities within the workplace:

1. Do not be afraid to take a job that you know nothing about. If someone who knows something about it thinks you can do it (and it is of interest to you), go for it. Then learn everything you can about how to do that job well.

When I first began working for MCA Records, I was a musician with a Masters in Music (Percussion Performance/Jazz Studies). I also worked as a professional D.J. and served as the Concert Director for Indiana University’s Student Programming Organization: Union Board. Immediately following my graduation, I accepted a position in the recording administration department at MCA Records despite the fact that I had not yet taken any business courses in either college or graduate school.  As a result, I quickly had to learn the financial aspects of making records. As Jacki suggests, because I had an interest to always learn more, I constantly accepted new responsibilities and learned everything I could by listening and learning from others.

2. It really, really matters whom you work for. It is extremely important, especially early on in your career, to work for someone who is not only good at what they do but is also a good teacher, manager, leader—and well (if you’re really lucky), human being. By following the bad example of someone senior to you, it often gets you into trouble later. While those individuals often had the track record, the talent, and/or the relationships to insulate them, the more junior person did not.

I was very fortunate to work for a young, up-and-coming music executive, Vinnie Freda at MCA Records. Vinnie was a great business mentor who was very patient with me as I learned the responsibilities associated with my position. Vinnie also encouraged me to take on additional responsibilities and often supported me when issues arose. During my first 14 years working under Vinnie, I was promoted nine times. Unfortunately, I was transferred from Vinnie’s department and I began reporting to a new manager who was not as supportive.

3. Just because you see other people do questionable things in the workplace, do not assume you can get away with it too. Be the best you can be all the time. Hold yourself to the highest possible standard. When the bad days started to outnumber the good days, and you have a choice, it is time to leave.

Fortunately, I was never asked to do any questionable things in my position at UMG. However, there is always the possibility that you could be asked to do things that you are not comfortable doing. If you ever get that weird little feeling in the pit of your stomach, don’t ignore it. Trust your instincts! You should never be forced to compromise your integrity at work. Politely confront your supervisor and inform them that you feel uncomfortable with their request. If they do not respect your wishes, I would suggest the following: speak with your company’s Human Resources department, request a transfer to another department, or look for a new job.

As I always like to say, “When a compromise becomes a sacrifice, leave!”

4. Live your values! This also means work in alignment with your values. If you do have options and believe in your talents and ability, do not be afraid to walk away from a job that is not making you happy. In the long term, you will be much happier and fulfilled working with people who share your values, and at a firm that is doing work that you believe in, and in a way that you believe in.

As I mentioned earlier, after 14 years I was transferred from my former boss’ department and I was no longer pursuing my strengths, talents and abilities. My decision to remain at the company for another eight years was a great example of “overstaying my welcome” because I knew that I was going to be embarking on new responsibilities that were no longer in alignment with my initial goals.

To quote Jacki, “I tried very hard to put the needs of others ahead of myself, to hold myself to the highest possible standard, and to fearlessly protect the culture of the firm to the best of my abilities. Was I perfect? Of course not. I look back now and think of all the things I could have done much better. At that point, however, I knew that my life had to be about doing work with people who shared my views and my values.”

5.  If you start having angst about your work, and especially if you have the resources to make a change, don’t wait to ask yourself: “What is my highest and best use on this planet? What is the work that I am meant to do?”

Jacki’s dissatisfaction regarding the impact she was having in her role at Goldman Sachs resulted in her departure from the firm, which led her to her current role as CEO of Women Moving Millions– a position she claims she was destined to be in.

Since my departure from UMG, I have been motivated to educate and inspire young and emerging adults to set and follow their own goals. My mission is to provide young adults (ages 16 to 25) with the needed educational concepts and tools to be successful in all areas of their lives – a dream job that has led me to write my first upcoming book, Growing Success: A Young Adult’s Guide to Achieving Personal and Financial Success.

As Jacki recommended in her article, the true secret to attaining one’s dream job and ultimate job satisfaction is aligning one’s unique talents alongside what gives one joy (e.g. meaningful work). Whatever you choose to do, if the opportunity presents itself, go for it. Be aware of your own values, goals, strengths, and abilities, and only work for others who are committed to your future development as you grow your success.

This is YOUR Life! Don’t Phone It In

Two of the biggest regrets I hear from a lot of adults today is that they wish they had listened to their own instincts and followed the life path they desired rather than trying to please others, choose a job, or lead a life out of fear. When they look back, they recall swearing to themselves that it was only temporary until something better came along.

Most of us come across these types of people every day: the server that looks annoyed when you take more than a minute to order your favorite coffee or breakfast sandwich; the cashier that has that glazed look in his or her eyes when he or she hands you your change without saying thank you; or the catatonic executive who spends his or her day unproductively staring at the clock or computer screen.

Sadly, most Americans don’t take the initiative from an early age to identify and pursue their passions, talents, or desires. Instead they often give in to their fears or misguided advice they receive or adopt from parents, advisors, friends, and others. As a result, many wind up ‘phoning in’ their lives by: mindlessly daydreaming about what could have been, feel they settled for less than they desired and now regret a life they never wanted, or, even worse, wake up every morning making excuses to anyone who will listen as to why they can’t pursue the life they once had a passion for. I cannot begin to tell you how many people wind up stuck in dead-end jobs/careers because they are: afraid to explore their true potential, desperate due to prior poor financial or life decisions (marriage, divorce, debt, etc.), or, even worse, are paralyzed by their obsessive need to hold onto material possessions (house, cars, etc.).

This is why it is so important for young adults to stop following in the footsteps of so many older adults (age 40-60) who suffer from what I call financial obesity, one’s obsessive and self-sabotaging need to constantly overspend and remain financially unhealthy as a result of a lack of financial education and personal development. To break the cycle, we must start encouraging emerging adults to develop new ways to succeed on their own terms by educating them with tools and resources during their early, formative years. This empowering education can help our young adults begin to make better financial and career-related decisions earlier in their lives that will positively impact their future personal and financial success.

As I discuss in my upcoming book, Growing Success: A Young Adult’s Guide to Achieving Personal and Financial Success, and in my recent blog entitled, “Self-Economics: A New Era for America’s Emerging Adults,” I address why it’s imperative that high schools and colleges must now find more productive and effective ways to educate young adults through enhanced high school and college curricula which I have dubbed “Self-Economics.”

The new curricula should include:

1. Financial literacy–which promotes personal finance and investing and the avoidance of “financial obesity.”
2. Personal development–a theoretical approach to learning and decision-making (which promotes
“the power of why”).
3. Entrepreneurship–which encompasses many of the elements of my
T.I.M.E. Model which teaches emerging adults how to invest in themselves rather than continue to rely on, or disappoint others.

By empowering young adults to make better decisions that will positively impact their outcomes and lives, they will be encouraged to no longer accept the status quo. They will stop choosing college majors or educational degrees that are not in alignment with their own passions, skills, or strengths simply because they have been pressured to do so by others. As they continue to grow older, they won’t remain in jobs that no longer inspire or fulfill them. They’ll refrain from accepting or settling for a job that is inconsistent with what they want, and therefore stop struggling, or, even worse, feel “set up to fail.” They’ll refuse to live in a sterile apartment, house, or location that feels more like a cold bus stop bench (e.g. waiting area) than a warm and stable sanctuary (e.g. home). They’ll also stop attracting what I like to call emotional parasites. These are unhealthy, dysfunctional people that often intentionally or unknowingly manipulate or use others for their own personal entertainment or distraction and who often project their own negative self-worth upon others rather than deal with their own self-sabotaging issues. 

To help you enhance your probabilities for success, I would like to offer you the following three suggestions:

1. You have the right to disappoint others – as I stated above: this is your life; don’t phone it in. It is time for you to start identifying your passions by trusting your own instincts. Once you have discovered them, clearly define your goals so they are consistent with your passions. Then keep your eyes open so you can spot related opportunities to pursue them. Re-affirm your intentions to motivate and empower yourself to take the necessary actions steps required to achieve the goals you’ve set and to make the necessary intermediary decisions that will lead to your probable (not possible) outcomes for success.

2. Like clothes, you may outgrow your current job or circle of friends. It is okay to move on and go against the wishes of others. Surround yourself with the people and experiences that will not only support and encourage you to attain the goals you have set, but those that will also help you to continue to grow. “True friends” will always support your decision to embark on new life experiences, even when those intentions do not align with their own. Other friends may not, and you will need to let those who can’t fade away. Always remember and appreciate those that have helped you become the person that you are today, but don’t be afraid to leave them behind if they can no longer champion your desired outcomes for success.

3. Most importantly, clearly define your goals. Your odds for success improve dramatically when you start off with a plan or written goals that you can effectively use to measure your future decisions and outcomes. I find it extremely helpful to ask myself the following question before I make any important decisions, “What is the probability versus the possibility of…?” This leading question will help you to anticipate whether or not your pending decision will support or hinder your overall plans, goals, and/or desired outcomes. It is imperative that you take responsibility for your actions and decisions from an early age so that you do not unknowingly set yourself back or derail yourself from achieving your goals.

“If you pursue something with enough passion, you will find fulfillment and success. Fulfillment is a choice. Be doggedly persistent in your pursuits.” ~ Gary Rogers (Productivity Coach)

As I often tell others, “Throughout your life knowledge appreciates, possessions depreciate.”  Don’t get stuck like so many before you in dead-end jobs or lifestyles as a result of trying to hold onto people or things due to a fear of losing them, a fear of change, or other fears you may possess.

Start investing in yourself now and continue to grow your future success.