Lunar Letter / The Golden Years

Many of us yearn for them and not all of us get to enjoy them…

What are the golden years and what can we do to get to them without having to wait so long?

Traditional thought contemplates working 40 or 50 years in a company in order to have a retirement, allowing us to live the last years of our lives in peace and tranquility. While in the history of humanity this concept is relatively new, it is much like chasing after a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. During our working lives we want to get there, to that ideal state of not having to work; but the closer we get, the farther it seems to be and when we think we have gotten there, it frequently goes away.

Although it might sound improbable and difficult to do, how about retiring right now? The word “jubilare” in Latin means to “shout with joy”, and this same word in romance languages also means to retire. I propose we begin express joy starting right now, instead of waiting so many years to do so.

Traditionally, people worked until their health permitted. When they could no longer work due to sickness or physical limitations, their family or friends helped them subsist. It wasn’t until the 18th century when the idea of giving a monthly stipend to people who reached a certain age was introduced. In the 19th century several companies began giving their employees a pension after a required number of years of service.

In 1883, the German Chancellor, Otto Von Bismark announced the payment of a pension to Germany’s citizens when they reached the age of 65. It was a direct response against the rising popularity and power of the Marxist movement in his country. And so, Germany became the first country to offer a payment allowing people to live well in their golden years.

Is it necessary to wait until 65 years of age to express joy and enjoy the rest of our lives?

What can we do to shout with joy before getting to the age which for so many signifies the golden years?

The primary thing we need to do is to enjoy what we are doing now, and this isn’t always easy. For 17 years, as a financial consultant, I helped many people plan for their golden years by establishing a solid economic base allowing them to do so. In all that time, it seemed interesting to me that my clients’ happiness wasn’t determined by their profession, their job, or the amount of money they made, rather by their attitudes towards what they were doing. I met people with many titles, professionals, who made a lot of money, who were some of the most miserable souls I have known. I met others with no fancy titles, humble jobs, making little money who were some of the happiest people I’ve met.

So then, what’s the answer?

Our “Golden Years” can begin now with a positive attitude toward our work, our colleagues, ourselves and our environment. Our attitude toward what we do is fundamental. If you don’t like what you are doing or where you are right now, begin planning to do something else. In a nutshell, I love the way Facundo Cabral expresses the thought:

“Do only what you love and you will be happy. Those who love what they do are blessedly condemned to success, which will come when it should come, because what should be, will be and will come naturally.”

Enjoying each moment can convert you into a person filled with constant joy. This will allow you to “retire” and “shout with joy” giving and give a shine to your years, making them golden, without having to wait so long.

∞ Rob McBride ∞
LL IV 32

Lunar Letter / Baggage

Let me ask you a question:

How much baggage are you taking with you on the adventure of life?

Some seem to take with them just about everything that can possibly be had in the world, while others travel lighter, only with the clothes on their back. Between these two extremes, go the majority of us. In addition to material things we take along the way, we also tend to take a lot of emotional baggage, which can be the heaviest of all.

The weight of these emotional suitcases depends on the moment. When they are full of applause and praise, it’s as if they were weightless, at times appearing to turn into wings and whisking us away to faraway places. With less weight in our emotional baggage, we tread lighter, walk with our head higher, have better posture and are more confidence in ourselves.

When negativity abounds, not being taken into account or a dirty look, can weigh down our emotional baggage in an instant. It’s then when we can create a vicious circle going around in our mind over and over again, pondering each of our decisions and elections. We ask why we did such and such, or the reason why someone reacted in a particular manner. Sometimes the weight can be so heavy, it impedes our progress.

It’s important to know the baggage we take with us, depends on us. We can decide which bags to keep and which to pitch. Some of the emotions we take with us, like love and happiness, deserve to be taken, even though they too have their weight. Though we really may not want it, others like anger, hate, and disenchantment will slip into our luggage from time to time. The idea is to preserve the positive and get rid of the negative as soon as possible.

Is it that easy to simply throw away the weight we don’t want?

It would be wonderful if it were so easy. The truth is that it isn’t easy to leave things behind, even when they harm us. Nevertheless, with practice, we can begin to get rid of what most weighs us down. I have an exercise you might like to take the emotions we feel to the test:

  • Think for a moment of a circumstance that is negatively weighing you down right now, it could be hate, anger, jealousy, selfishness, guiltiness or any other coming as a result of something specific in your life
  • Imagine the entire situation as if it were a movie and as you do, see yourself in the image with bag full of all the emotion you feel on your back
  • From the audience, as a spectator, watch everything
  • Looking from the outside in, from a different perspective, you can find answers to make your journey more pleasant

When we take a situation apart and examine it closely from the outside in, we find it often isn’t necessary or logical to carry heavy emotional baggage. To begin to lighten our load, we can get rid of anything that doesn’t make us happiness.

Life is dynamic and its natural to feel emotions. Far from ignoring them, or pretending they don’t exist, let’s begin to analyze each one, deciding whether or not we will allow its weight in our luggage. In time we learn traveling lighter, with less emotional baggage, makes the journey more enjoyable.

∞ Rob McBride ∞
LL IV 31

Lunar Letter / The Compass of Life

Where does a compass point?

Under normal circumstances it points north, but if there is a magnet, metal, or electrical current nearby, it can change direction drastically in an instant, giving us a false reading.

Have your ever been going toward your “north”, your primary objective, and suddenly everything changes? You get a call, or some other interruption, and in an instant what seemed to be your primary objective simply goes away. Sometimes it’s almost imperceptible, and can happen with certain degree of frequency depending on our work and other activities. The interruptions can at times be so overwhelming we don’t even have a single moment in the day to focus on our true north.

Now comes the obvious, but tough question:

If your “north” is so important to you, why do you let others deviate your course so easily?

We need to accept that in most cases we do not own 100% of our time, and like it or not, there are things which inevitably must be done. Since this is the case, shouldn’t we at least plan some part of our day to do what we consider to be most important and not just dedicate ourselves to the needs of others? If we incorporate our goal consistently as a part of our daily plan, we have a much better chance of getting it.

Whenever we want to achieve something, be it personal or work related, we need to take care of how we use our time and invest it wisely. We all have the same amount of time in a day, some take full advantage of each moment, others waste them away.

How can we get to our north?

While we can create agreat, glorious plan carefully mapping out each step along the way, how about if we simply figure out what the next step is we need to take, and make that our goal for the day? It doesn’t have to be something big, and in fact the majority of huge goals can be broken down into bite size pieces, which can be handled easily one by one.

Making a living needn’t be a titanic mission. Day to day existence isn’t always easy, but it doesn’t really require any great talent or ability. Pointing our compass toward doing what we do well, and above all enjoy, is a great idea. Besides, it’s much more fun and pleasurable that way. When our work becomes our play, each day is a party but, of course, to get to the celebration, though to get there is not always a piece of cake.

With our “north” firmly n mind, we need to do whatever we can to keep our compass free of obstacles altering its accuracy. When situations of life knock us off course, which they most certainly will, it is our job is to free ourselves from the distractions as best we can, without losing sight of what is most important.

Just as a compass looks for its north, we too can keep pointed north by having clarity in our desires and objectives, along with a plan of action to achieve them. Doing so leads us naturally to what needs to be done to get to where we want to go. Our job is to maintain our compass free of interference, giving direction to our destiny.

∞ Rob McBride ∞
LL IV 30

Lunar Letter / Opportunity is Now Here

It is common to think we have no options or opportunities. We are creatures of habit, and when we have to leave our comfort zone it’s easy to get blocked with the “impossibility” of what we do not know, rather than being motivated by the “possibility” of what can be.

Let’s take a look at these two phrases:

Opportunity Is Nowhere
Opportunity is Now Here

While the letters are exactly the same, depending on where we put the spaces, the meaning of each is completely different. In the first case, there is no opportunity anywhere; while in the second, opportunity is everywhere.

This makes me think of an excellent example regarding the scope of knowledge. Imagine for a moment you are in the middle of the woods on a dark night with a campfire. What you know right now is represented by the aura created by the light of the fire. All you do not know is outside the aura and cannot be readily seen, but it’s still there, we simply have not yet learned it.

The same happens with possibilities and opportunities. Those we have in mind exist because perhaps:

We had to learn about them through life’s circumstance
We made definite decision to know more about them
A challenge along the way drove us to grow

The person who knows how to fish to survive, doesn’t find much difficulty in doing so. Another person might think doing so might be too difficult, not necessarily because it is, but rather for a lack of knowledge. As the saying goes: teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime, give him a fish and you feed him only for one meal.

Losing a job or going through difficult economic circumstances can seem like the end of the world, but it needn’t be so since life’s difficulties can be resolved. Most important is to know at any time we can “learn to fish,” as long as we are alive. Possibility is right around the corner, to become opportunity. Making money and a living really doesn’t require much intelligence, and in fact, many do so with little or no education. The greater challenge, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, is to doing something we love. Something really giving meaning to our lives.

What would you do right now if you lost your job and had no money?

Would you give up on life and die of hunger, or look for another alternative?

We are all different, and as incredible as it might sound, some prefer throwing in the towel when difficulty arises, without discovering any other possibility. The greatest obstacles we find in life tend to be inside, in our the mind, rather than the environment.

Instead of grieving for a lost job or economic difficulty, understand opportunity exists for those willing to use their minds, putting action to thought, and working intelligently. Seek what you most like to do, learn what must be done to live by doing it, and live the life you have always dreamed living. Understand possibility, take advantage of opportunity.

∞ Rob McBride ∞
LL IV 29

Lunar Letter / Brain vs. Mind

Recently I read something I found intriguing about the difference between making a decision with the brain or the mind. While it may not be 100% true from a biological standpoint, it provides an interesting example to improve our ability to make a decision.

We are all born with a brain capable of doing an infinite number of things and from the time we are young, it helps us survive. For example, the brain tells us that when we are hungry, we should eat; and when there is danger, that we should fight or flee. In this same way, it accompanies us on our journey through life constantly analyzing every situation and giving us “suggestions,” which we may or may not follow. We don’t necessarily have to eat when we are hungry, nor do we have to fight or flee when there is danger, but nevertheless our brain continually gives us options.

The mind, according to what I read, works differently. It is influenced by what we have learned. Our experience gives “suggestions” coming as a result of those who are in our environment; such as our parents, relatives, neighbors, and teachers. At the same time, the information they give comes from their own minds that have been formed by their experience. While in the majority of the cases this information is given for our benefit, it is not always the best to make a good decision.

For example, our parents may tell us, “Don’t let anyone intimidate you!” The message is clear, if you encounter a bully in school or on the the street, don’t run, instead stay and fight for your rights. The reality is that there will be times when it is better to run rather than to stay and fight, particularly if the person intimidating us is much bigger and also has a weapon. While the mind analyzes what our parents have told us, the brain’s suggestion is quick and without hesitation. It tells us, “Run away as quickly as possible!” In this instant of doubt, before making the decision, it may be too late.

While there are times when the mind can help us to make a better decision, there are other times when instead of helping, it gets in the way. Let’s look at another example. We may be in a toxic relationship, which may even be violent. The brain says, “Get away, now!” In the meantime, the mind tells us, “No one is perfect,” and “we should forgive those who have wronged us.” Besides, in many cases we love the person who is doing the damage. Instead of making a decision to go in search for another healthier relationship, we stay in the toxic one.

While there are almost always exceptions to any rule, and a life without emotion must be like eating food with no spice; it is important to pay attention to both what our brain and our mind say. The brain analyzes each situation as it is, while the mind integrates experience and emotion.

When the time comes to make an important decision, we can make our decision using both rather than only one or the other. We can first analyze it with our mind, allowing prejudices and the experience of others to come into play. At the same time, to make a good decision, we should also analyze the situation as if we were a processor in a computer, with the brain taking each of the elements for what it is, without letting experience and emotion unduly sway our point of view. Let’s give weight to both experience and emotion, as well as careful analysis, considering each, and thus improving our ability to optimize our results.

∞ Rob McBride ∞
LL IV 28

Lunar Letter / Like a Bird

Like a bird, we fly on our way day after day. Sometimes the flight is frenetic and frantic, others calm, cool and collected. Sometimes in a hurry to get someplace right now, others as if we were on a Sunday drive with no place special to go.

Some birds seem to be anguished in their constant search for food, while others fly calmly enjoying the moment, and then suddenly like a rocket plummeting down from the sky, they reach their objective in an instant, satisfying their need for food for several days.

A bird instinctively rises with the sun and flies in search of whatever is necessary for its survival. Sometimes seeking twigs for its nest, others looking for food, either for itself or its chicks. At the break of day its daily journey begins to achieve what it can while the light lasts. They know not of watches or time, rather are ruled by the sun, which comes and goes. Some of their days are full of danger, where death is ever present. Some days they may go an entire day without achieving their objective, and on yet others come across a great bonanza. Regardless, the sky is their playground, and each day is almost the same.

In a similar way, we too spend our days. On some we are like the hummingbird, who in constant movement goes from flower to flower constantly searching for the energy it needs to get through the day. On others we are like an eagle soaring above all, watching each detail calmly until finally finding its objective.

Despite the frenzy in which some birds spend their days, their lives are ironically shorter. Maybe it is this certainty which causes them to take advantage of the time they have, which like it or not, simply goes. Those living longer seem to have a calmer rhythm of life, where survival doesn’t appear to be their primary goal, rather one part of the great whole.

So with this said, my question to you now is:

How is your rhythm day to day?

Like a hummingbird who never stops, or like the eagle soaring majestically above it all?

Though we don’t always realize it, the answers to life’s most important questions generally tend to be inside of us. In many cases we need only open our eyes, shake our heads, and clear the mental cobwebs to find it.  When this is the case, looking someplace else for what we have inside doesn’t usually give the best results.
Directing our attention to our inner voice can lead us to what has always been there. Be like the majestic bird who flies in tranquility, knowing that their flight depends more on what they have inside than their wings, and this to them ultimately brings inner peace.

∞ Rob McBride ∞
LL IV 27

Lunar Letter / Food for your Soul

Like a great tree that needs nutrients to grow and prosper, we also need food for our soul. Sometimes in life all we need is sun, rain, and wind. In others, these same things can burn, drown, and topple us.

The sun, so vital for the growth of all, can burn us if we don’t protect ourselves from its intense power. The rain which nurtures us, giving us the moisture necessary to hydrate us, can also drown us at times with its power. Similarly, the wind which strengthens our roots and resolve, can also come in hurricane gusts leveling everything in its path.

The tree is marked by the adversity it undergoes, often changing dramatically in form and shape. From our birth and when we are small, our parents or others do the best for our well-being, and then when we can do it ourselves, we give our best effort to advance in life.

Our mind is a chest where we keep our most valued treasures. The content is fundamental for to who we are. If we feed our mind with happiness and a good disposition, our own tree can grow incredibly. If not, or in the absence of proper resources, our trunk and our base will likely become weak due to a lack of nutrients.

We can ask ourselves, where can we find the food we so need for our mind?

I have a proposal which can put you within reach of each of the nutrients you need to feed your mind and your soul.

How to do it?

Piece of cake!

Just come here daily, where I promise to share ideas which can be of use to you. If you would like, I can even send you a daily audio which might be of interest. All you need to do is ask, and it will be yours.

Additionally, if what you would like to do is feed your soul, you need look no farther than to the bookshelves of history; to the writings left as a legacy from brilliant minds like: Socrates, Plato, Marcus Aurelius, Machiavelli, Dostoevsky, James, Benedetti, and Mandino, among many others.

There are few problems any of us can face which haven’t been handled at sometime, in some way, by someone, somewhere. Now there are many people offering their services as coaches and mentors, giving us their advice on how to get out of the hole in which we often find ourselves. Nevertheless, and without taking away from their merit, the answer we need not be so far, or hidden in the perception of another.

The majority of the time, deep inside our soul we have the answer we need. Like the tree, rooted firmly in the ground we have the power to build and grow; if we pay attention to our own voice inside, we can find the key to open the lock previously inhibiting our progress.

Look inside yourself. Find the secret and the light you have inside allowing them to come out, dance, play, and shine. As you do this, your soul will be well fed with a new, special energy, opening your path to a new world of opportunities, just as is the case with a big, strong tree.

∞ Rob McBride ∞
LL IV 26

Lunar Letter / Fight or Flight

One of the most natural instincts we have is to fight or to flee. Without a doubt, these decisions can change our lives forever.

During the revolution for the independence of Venezuela, on July 6th, 1814, some 20,000 people left Caracas toward Barcelona, in the state of Anzoátegui, with Simon Bolivar, fleeing from the Spaniard Jose Tomas Boves. The approximately four thousand people who decided to stay and “fight” encountered a sadistic and ruthless leader with no sympathy. Besides allowing summary executions, he also permitted his men to rape and torture those who remained.

I wonder in this case, who was smarter, those who chose to flee with Bolivar o those who stayed to face their fate through the hate of Boves?

These decisions, among others, mark our existence. History is replete with situations where people have decided whether to take flight from a situation they could no longer withstand, or to stay and fight for what they thought was right.

Some can say those who flee are cowards for not staying to fight for their rights. Others may say those who stay are simply stupid for remaining to be killed, rather than choosing a better life.

Right now we see similar situations in countries like Syria, Cuba, and Venezuela, among others. While those who flee have the opportunity to begin a new life, those who stay and fight are fundamental in generating positive change.

Not everyone has the desire, or the economic wherewithal, to emigrate and begin a new life in a different place. For some, the only option they feel they have is to stay, though I believe we always have the ability to choose, though these decisions are not always easy.

Regardless of the choice made, most important is not the decision as such to fight or take flight, rather the circumstances and the reasons for why the decision are made. Many decide to do nothing, opting instead to have the decision “made” for them. Fighting or fleeing both have their place.

As is the case in the animal kingdom, in some cases it is worth staying and fighting, while in others remaining is a sure recipe for death. The survival of an animal, and in our case of a human being, frequently depends on the decisions made in these critical moments in time.

Those who flee have the opportunity to begin with a clean canvass, with the ability to paint it with the colors they want. For those who stay to fight, frequently the canvass is already stained, which presents a tremendous challenge to paint freely.

When at all possible, before making a decision to fight or take flight, it is important to carefully analyze each of the factors involved in the situation. With the decision made, we should do something to realize our dreams and achieve that which we most desire. Let’s do all we can to take the reins of our life and not simply allow the decision to be taken for us.

∞ Rob McBride ∞
LL IV 25

Lunar Letter / A Struggle for Power

The struggle for power in Venezuela right now is the same struggle occurring since the beginning of time in nature.

Power tends to be something that we, as human beings, covet at some time or another in our lives. There may be those of us who aren’t mature enough to accept it, or perhaps just too fearful to admit it; but at some point we have all wanted to have power, or use it, at least for a little while.

It’s not common for the person who has control to release it without a fight. It’s nice being the one in control. Whey we say, “Jump,” people ask, “How High?” When we say, “Sing,” people ask, “What song?” An authoritarian style of leadership might achieve its desired objectives in the short term, and perhaps even consolidate power, but over the long-term it tends to leave many discontent in the process. There are others ways of exerting power, which are more subtle, but the result is usually the same. When it comes time for a shift in power, there is resistance, though the law of nature will always choose the winner without pity or prejudice. Those who are stronger and adapt better to change, win the game; while the losers take refuge, if they can.

Changes in power are frequent and constant in history. No empire has lasted forever. The young and the ambitious challenge the more seasoned and powerful until they reach their objective. As long as the one in power is able to repel his enemies with force and the support of his allies, he maintains control. When he can no longer withstand the advances of his rival, whether it be from a crease in his armor, or an all out civil war, power goes in favor of the stronger and more adaptable.

Right now, the struggle for power in Venezuela has gained the interest of world, and the way things are going it promises to be historic. Due the magic of modern communications, millions of people are aware everywhere of what is happening, and they can see first hand the daily occurrences rocking a country on the verge of collapse.

The questions on the minds of many are:

Will the current regime consolidate power to rise and rally, or will the armor crack, leading to their defeat and giving rise to new leadership?

Will the people warm to the idea of leaving a position of comfort and convenience, to work hard and honestly for the country which so badly needs them?

If a change in power does occur, are those who want power prepared to manage a country so divided?

These and other questions will come up along the way. Without a doubt we will see nature take its course, as the stronger and more adaptive to change wins in the struggle for power.

∞ Rob McBride ∞
LL IV 24

Lunar Letter / A Separate Reality

Many of us live in “separate realities” due to our different points of view, expectations, and experiences. Sometimes these can be good and at others, not so.

In August of 1992, almost 25 years ago, I arrived to Venezuela between two coup attempts taking place that same year. Because of the difference in language and culture, I found myself initially in a separate reality, understanding little of all the commotion around me. My way of thinking and expressing myself marched to the beat of a different drum than those in my new home. Nevertheless, in time I became accustomed to my new reality, which despite all of its craziness, I began to like, and as such have now been here after so many years.

At the time, I also became aware of another separate reality. I found that despite not having many of the things I had been taught to be necessary for happiness, many were happy anyway. On the other hand, in the United States, where I was born and raised, I saw others who were unhappy despite living the “American Dream” and having all the toys money can buy.

In 1999, I moved to Argentina where I saw another separate reality begin to unravel and which culminated in 2002, when the government lost control of the artificial parity they maintained between the Argentine peso and the US dollar. The result was an “economic adjustment” leading to a “corral”, effectively devaluing the value of Argentine investments from one day to the next and dramatically limiting access to investors’ capital. Panic led to demonstrations, looting, and general dissatisfaction within the society.

In recent years, I have lived a separate reality, once again in Venezuela where the government sees one reality and the opposition another. We now live in an “actual reality” where the same event can have two completely different versions depending on who you listen to. Pay attention to only one of the two political forces, and they each seem to be right. Listening to the arguments of both leads to confusion and a lack of confidence, and in many cases, it’s virtually impossible to know who to believe.

Living in a separate reality can be convenient at the time, so as not to get carried away by what is happening around us. Nevertheless, there comes a time when it’s necessary to come back down to the actual reality surrounding us, accepting what we cannot change and modifying what is within our control.

The reality today in Venezuela is that it isn’t easy to happy with the hate, anger, and division in the society. As such, Venezuela needs a new reality; one designed to unify a divided country. Instead of making new laws, we should abide to those that are existing, while increasing productivity, well-being, and tranquility.

In order for this to happen, each of the “separate realities” should come together on one important point: instead of talking about “us” and “them”, we should begin to work in function of the betterment of “all”, covering us in an environment eliciting a wonderful collective smile.

∞ Rob McBride ∞
LL IV 23