Posts

2007 marked my first year of staying committed to blogging, thanks to the 365 Days of Drewy Goodness challenge. That meant 365 days of posts about all sorts of things.

As time has gone on, keeping all 365 of those posts seems unnecessary. In it’s place I’m leaving this “Best of 365 days of blogging” post and the posts it references. For the truly dedicated, the original 365 posts have been stored in this pdf.

  1. 365 Days of Drewy Goodness – This is the post that started it all.
  2. YouTube Dilemma – A question I still struggle with.
  3. The Weekend in Review: Send Off Show – A review of my final “student” performance with The 8th Floor.
  4. Thoughts on Handwritign – While this wasn’t the funniest post I wrote, I did find it interesting to see how many mistakes I made.  Conclusion: a lot.
  5. My Rise & My Fall  – An exercise in creative writing and thinking about my future. My Fall was an exaggeration that calls out what I see as some of my weaknesses that I need to make sure I work on. My Rise highlights the strengths that are going to help lead me to success.

There you have it, the best of 365 days of consecutive blogging.

This post is making it’s way to you from the lovely town of Morehead, KY. My brother has been attending college at Morehead State University on and off for the past seven years (undergrad and now grad school).

In those seven years I’ve visited him exactly once prior to the trip this weekend, so it seemed about time to come back down again before heading off to NYC.

What You Do in Morehead

Morehead is quite a different experience than that of a school like Ohio State. OSU has 50,000 students, Morehead’s more like 9,000. At OSU, people go to bars, or to the movies, or hang out at parties.

At Morehead, people go visit abandoned mines that are possibly the grounds for satanic rituals and sacrifices. Oh, and by “people,” I mean my brother and his friends.

So naturally on my visit here, “we” decided that I “had” to see these mines, because after all, “a mine is a terrible thing to waste.” Normally I’m pretty smart about the activities in which I choose to partake, but I guess the “whiteness” got the best of me, because I agreed to go.

Driving to a Bad Idea

The mines are up an old, creepy road in the middle of nowhere. Naturally my brother and his two friends, Alphabet and Lilo & Stitch from the cruise, decided to “hype up” the mines on our way there. Apparently in addition to the possible satanic rituals, dead bodies have been found there and it’s illegal to even be near the place- two great things to find out as you’re starting to get out of the car.

As we approached the entrance, we heard a car drive by – causing all of us to drop down to the ground and for me to reconsider why the hell I was there. After the car passed and we recovered our wits, we continued forward.

With our trusty flashlights and a camera, we ventured into the depths of this mine, looking at the remnants from when it used to be a facility for storing mushrooms. As a mine should be, it was pitch dark aside from the small beams of our flashlights, and quiet save for the dripping of water – quite enough to freak me out.

We walked back a ways, being sure to be talking at all times to avoid the creepiness that was listening to the natural sounds. We reached the “Doorway to Hell” and took a look into the “Kitchen,” and after seeing a supposed altar, it was time to high tail it out of the place.

I noticed our pace out of the mine was a lot faster than the pace into it- our own imaginations creating images of what could possibly be in store for us (and of course our imaginations were in overdrive since someone decided it would be a good idea to watch Vacancy before this whole little excursion began).

Spoiler Alert: We Survived

Back at the car, with the heart still pumping, I had a little bit more time to reconsider why I agreed to go. In a way, putting yourself into a scary situation makes you feel a little more alive- it’s another way to get a “rush” (like getting on stage or riding a roller coaster).

And even though our fears may have been unjustified, or were self-constructed from our thoughts and willingly putting ourselves in such a situation, they were very real (at least at the time).

So yeah, that was my Saturday night. What’d you do?

Thanksgiving – who doesn’t love today (except maybe Native Americans)? Family, thinking of things for which to be thankful, boatloads of delicious food (namely turkey and mashed potatoes).

Today also starts the seeming 8-week streak of having some form of turkey to eat at every single meal.

I do really enjoy the Holiday because it’s good to stop and think about all the positive things going on in your life.  And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some of things I’m thankful for (and I’ll be honest, not 100% sure of what it means to be remissed).

Things I’m Thankful For

  • I’m thankful for … my family who’s so supportive and fun to be around.  They’ve encouraged me and helped me along the way, plus have provided plenty of inspiration for material.
  • I’m thankful for … my friends who are much funnier than I, though not always intentionally.
  • I’m thankful for … all of my fans, readers and audiences that have allowed me to entertain through stand-up, improv, and my blog (hint: that’s you guys).
  • I’m thankful for … puns.
  • I’m thankful for … the ability to think of funny things to say.
  • I’m thankful for … thinking of thanking the ability to think of things to say on Thanksgiving.
  • I’m thankful for … the people who appreciate (approximate) alliteration.
  • I’m thankful for … my boyish good looks, and the ability to laugh at the various quirks about myself.
  • I’m thankful for … the opportunities that I have professionally, comedically, and personally.
  • I’m thankful for … chicken (it’s so delicious).
  • I’m thankful for … a whole host of other things (life, liberty and the pursuit, etc) that are far too numerous to mention here.
  • I’m thankful for … the people who won’t get mad (or supposedly it’s “angry”) if I didn’t mention them in the above list.

Note: The post tonight is part 2 of a 2 part series, and is a fictional story set four years in the future. My Fall represents a worse-case scenario of my weaknesses getting the best of me. My Rise is a best-case scenario where my strengths lead to greatness. Again, both cases are fictional, and are meant merely as a creative writing exercise and possibly as lessons for me to remember in the future.

MY RISE

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” – Lao-Tzu

Fresh off a move to New York City, a year of excellent ratings at work, and some strong stand-up performances, I was feeling on top of the world. 2007 had been a very productive year, but things were about to get even better.

The confidence I gained from surpassing most of my goals, and the support I received from others, helped 2008 become my springboard into success. A product of The 8th Floor, and my new belief that “You can’t escape the 8” should have told me ’08 was going to be my year. If I only knew…

Just living in the Big Apple was exhilarating for me. I was in the same city, on the same streets, doing some of the same things as people like Seinfeld, Jay Z, and too many countless others. I saw the same comedy clubs Chris Rock worked on his material in, I was on the same streets as Notorious BIG, I passed the same buildings that appeared in so many films. The energy of the city was enough for anyone to become inspired.

After spending some time settling in and getting adjusted, I started to focus. The corporate job was the first area to take off. Having just achieved some “Big Wins” in my last few days in my last assignment, I was determined to show a new set of co-workers the type of work I was capable of.

I had been fortunate in my first role to have things that I could do well and people that were strong advocates for me. But the move to a new city, with a different culture, and a separate required skill set meant I had to start all over again.

It started with the help of some peers, helping me to quickly get up to speed on the current environment. Through a number of one-on-one discussion I learned what I needed to know and got the lay of the land. This knowledge, plus some creative thinking, landed me strong supporters right from the get-go.

In addition to executing with excellence on my key initiatives, the fear of losing some of the exposure gained in my first year at work pushed me to step up my commitment to becoming the Corporate Humorist.

In addition to blog posts about how and why to bring humor into the workplace, I started creating humorous podcasts that began to spread within the company. My eagerness to stay involved in some big ideas, even while not in Cincinnati, allowed me to explore comedy even further and reach more people. Before long, the self-proclaimed “Corporate Humorist” title was becoming my moniker across the company.

As is often the case, the success in one area of my life lead to successes elsewhere.

With a stronger focus, available training via Upright Citizen’s Brigade, and a ginormous number of opportunities to perform at open mics, my comedic skill grew exponentially. Long, efficient days at work were followed by late night hours at the comedy clubs.

Spending few hours at home other than to sleep, I was wishing for more hours in the day just to spend on my various projects. Weekends were my time to re-energize, and were plenty enough given the passion and excitement that grew with each success. Even minor setbacks turned into greater opportunities and learning experiences.

With ever growing confidence, and just a hint of cockiness, I couldn’t help but become more socially adept. Luckily good friends and renewed connections helped to keep me grounded, and the success of other 8th Floor members pushed me to match them achievement for achievement.

In a sense, it became a competition to see who could “make it” first.

Connections at work turned into a strong starting group of friends. As did my fellow classmates at UCB and others on the comedy circuit. Friday and Saturday nights quickly became booked with adventures exploring the city, great parties, and of course, good comedy.

Lunch dates were the norm, as I learned to “never eat alone,” save when I wanted a bit of time for reflection. The weekend afternoons became great times to work on my comedic projects – videos, games, the website, and general podcasts.

With the weeks filled with hard work, loads of fun, and personal records in productivity, the first year in NYC flew by. As Christmas ’08 approached, I achieved my biggest goal of the year and Featured at a comedy club back in Cincinnati. Friends and family alike were impressed with the improvement I had gained from so many open mics while I was gone.

2009 started much the same as 2008. After such a chock-full year, I gave myself the month of January off from most of the extracurricular activities. During that time I caught up on shows that I missed and books that I hadn’t gotten a chance to read.

I also spent more time with a girl I had been casually dating and a full relationship bloomed. Luckily she was also into comedy, and her encouragement only lead to a spectacular return that February.

A group of fellow UCB graduates and comedians started working with me on short, comedic movies. Our videos were soon getting 100,000’s of views on YouTube and traffic at our group’s website sky-rocketed.

Through the help of some great friends and connections, stand-up opportunities started popping up in various places on the East coast and Mid-West. Before long, all vacation from work was used to travel doing comedy- a welcomed circumstance.

The corporate job continued to get better as well. With a year of understanding my role under my belt, producing results became easier and almost second nature. Several smaller projects I started in 2008 started kicking into gear in 2009, including some ideas that spread globally across the company.

The end of 2009 brought a difficult decision. As my 2 year assignment in NYC began to reach it’s end, and with a promotion offer on the table, I had to make a choice. Comedy was beginning to present more and more opportunities, and work provided a number of options that certainly seemed interesting.

A decision I had been avoiding since starting with the company in 2006 was now right in my face.

“The harder I work, the luckier I get.” – Gary Player

Ultimately one of the many acquaintances I had made through various networking opportunities saved the day. I took a part-time, location-free role that allowed me to work anywhere I had an Internet connection and phone line. The work, though still challenging and exciting, was limited to 20-30 hours per work. The rest of the time I could spend on comedy, in whatever city I chose.

Maintaining my home-base in NYC, I started doing more and more comedy shows across the country. UCB afforded the opportunity to continue performing improv, while stand-up began taking off with more and more Feature performances.

As 2010 quickly approached on the horizon, a few good friends made the leap from Chicago to NYC, ready to take over Saturday Night Live.

In the Spring of 2010, a number of former 8th Floor members were reunited while all living in New York. Their arrival brought a renewed sense of dedication to comedy. My work role turned from one of a project manager to that of consultant, specializing in revitalizing how ideas were delivered and best being described as a Humor Consultant.

Thanks to a growing fan-base, a number of advocates in the comedy industry, and the encouragement of my friends, headlining opportunities started popping up- the first was in a hometown club where great turnouts helped kick off more jobs.

2011 brought forth the realization of a long-time dream of many of The 8th Floor Alum. Some fresh off the stage at SNL, others from the mainstage of Second City, and myself performing stand-up, united together and created an 8th Floor Comedy tour.

A mash-up of improv, sketch, and stand-up comedy, the tour gained national recognition traveling throughout the states. The last date of the tour was November 18, 2011. The location – the Schottenstein Center, Columbus, OH – Ohio State main campus.

The sold-out show proved to be the best of all of our shows to date. Afterwards, as people left for the after-party to mingle with fans, friends, and family, I took a seat on the now-empty stage, in the now-empty arena. Looking into the thousands of empty seats that were filled just moments before, I thought back to how it all began. I thought about my alma mater’s catchphrase – “Do Something Great.”

I smirked to myself, feeling like one part of that had been accomplished.

“I … will … not … lose … … ever …” – Jay Z

I didn’t know what lied ahead of me or what was next. Continued stand-up? An attempt into TV? A return to the corporate world? A focus on starting a family? I wasn’t sure, but I knew one thing, I’d be successful.

By now I had learned the ingredients as to what made me tick. I had become obsessed with finishing what I started, delivering with excellence. My social network was my greatest asset, as they challenged me constantly, provided me support, and birthed new opportunities.

If I ever started getting complacent, I’d remind myself that nothing was guaranteed, and nothing was owed to me. Regardless of how I faired compared to others, better or worse, I could always improve. I couldn’t control what other people did, or what would happen around me, but I could always strive to be a better me.

Every day I had taken steps to get better. Every day I achieved small successes, always moving forward to a new goal. As people around me got caught up in details, or spent time wishing for things to happen, I took action.

I thought back again to that catchphrase. If only people knew the real secret: “Do something great? Hell, just do something.”

Note: The post tonight is part 1 of a 2 part series, and is a fictional story set four years in the future. My Fall represents a worse-case scenario of my weaknesses getting the best of me. My Rise is a best-case scenario where my strengths lead to greatness. Again, both cases are fictional, and are meant merely as a creative writing exercise and possibly as lessons for me to remember in the future.

MY FALL

“The keenest sorrow is to recognize ourselves as the sole cause of all our adversities.” – Sophocles

Fresh off a move to New York City, a year of excellent ratings at work, and some strong stand-up performances, I was feeling on top of the world. On the verge of 24, everything seemed to be lining up just right, and my confidence was soaring.

I had achieved and surpassed a number of my goals in 2007, and knew that 2008 was going to be an even better year. With a slew of accomplishments-professional, comedic and personal- under my belt, I was ready to go.

The move to NYC was a draining one. I had committed to delivering my key projects with excellence, and long days turned into long nights just to fulfill that commitment. By the time the 2007 Holidays were done, my projects from the prior role were wrapped up, and I was settled into my Manhattan apartment, I was mentally and physically tired.

Over the course of the next couple of months, I allowed myself a break. I spent a lot of time just watching TV, surfing the Internet, reading various business and comedy books, giving myself excuses not to do any real work. I justified my (in)actions by reflecting on my past year’s successes, not the challenges that lay ahead.

The comedy was the first thing to suffer. You can’t just stop showing up to a corporate job without their being immediate repercussions- there are people there expecting to see you, coworkers and bosses that will hold you accountable.

You don’t have that person looking over you in your hobbies, especially not comedy. A club manager isn’t going to call you and ask why you haven’t been showing up to the open mics, or why you’ve yet to sign up for an improv class. In a city like NYC, it’s hard enough just to make it into the comedy scene, let alone break through it. And you certainly won’t do it sitting at home.

But at the time I wasn’t thinking about that. I told myself I’d get back to doing comedy once work settled down, once I got to the know the city, once I finished my website.

Yeah, that was it. The “amazing website” I was supposed to create to make myself more marketable. I had a number of great ideas for it: a constantly updated blog, cartoons representing some of my stand-up bits, games based on my stories, videos and audio of me in action, merchandise.

I was going to get my piece of “Internet fame” through YouTube videos, and creative applications. It was going to help set me apart.

The problem is that it never happened. And I had told myself, until the site goes up, I’ll stay off the stage- that was going to be my motivation. But I’d come home from work, tired from the mental drain of trying to learn a new job and still deliver results.

I’d plop down on the couch and watch “Inside the Actor’s Studio,” because that’s kind of like working on comedy, trying to learn from the people that made it. But day by day, “Inside the Actor’s Studio” turned into NBC’s Thursday night lineup because it’s comedy, which turned into sitting down and watching whatever was on.

All the while my website stayed in it’s unfinished state from 2007.

In addition to TV, I read a lot. It wasn’t fiction, but business books like “The World is Flat,” productivity books like “Getting Things Done,” and comedy books like “Truth in Comedy.” In my mind, reading was “work.”

“So what if I didn’t get on stage this week, I read three chapters of ‘Improvise.’ This will just make me better the next time I do get on stage (or need to manage my time, or get this project done).” The problem was “next time” didn’t happen.

The social life was the next to go. I had done a pretty good job of getting out and making new friends when I first arrived in the Big Apple. The city was still very exciting, I was the new guy in the office so people made it easy by offering up things to do. And my friends and family were still on the top of my mind, with plenty of people staying in touch, talking about how much they’ll visit.

But the big city life started wearing off. The twenty minute subway ride to various entertainment spots started getting old, and the allure of the TV, Internet, and books in my apartment started to take hold. With no roommate or close friends to pull me out of the house, I easily slipped into a comfortable pattern of spending weekends alone.

At first it was nice. It was a great way to relax from the move, and to really plan for the future- to figure out what I was really going to do with my life.

I had a lot of plans, like those for comedy. I also had plans for doing even better at P&G, for building a huge social group of friends, for being and staying happy. I had a lot of plans.

“Never mistake motion for action.” – Ernest Hemingway

Eventually the same cancer that destroyed my comedy and social life infected my business world as well. I started off strong, leading one of my first projects to overwhelming success and setting the roadmap for another great year.

But I started getting complacent. I leaned on my success from the past year for justification. The internal humor blog slowly started dying, shoved out of the way because of “too much work.” My network started crumbling as the effort to maintain and grow it from NYC in a Cincinnati-based company was “too high.”

Over time the highly productive 8, 9, 10 hour days, turned into 6 hour stints more reminiscent of “Office Space.” ESPN.com started replacing the internal company site, RSS Feeds replacing corporate email.

At first, no one really noticed. I had learned my role, and my boss’ schedule, well enough that I could fake doing a good job. Fortunately at P&G, you can’t do that for too long.

As the three core areas of my life from 2007 started declining, time started to blur. The first year passed and I received average ratings at work. I blamed them on my recent move. I had only been on stage a handful of times. I blamed it on the “stressful” work. I failed to stay in touch with a lot of my friends, some of my family, and didn’t really meet and stay connected with a new group of people in the city. I blamed the other people.

By 2009, I was no longer a comedian. I was still decent at my job- some projects finished on time, others got delayed, and I rarely went “above and beyond.” I had returned to my more introverted ways of my middle school years- talking only to a small group of people, making no real attempts to meet others.

A bipolar self-esteem did little to help. One day I’d look in the mirror and think “Girls want me. Guys want to be me.” The next day, I’d think “What’s wrong with you?” A mix of anger and depression started to seep in as I failed to achieve results like I had in the past.

What others offered in encouragement, I took as expectations. Off hand remarks that I’d “someday be the CIO,” meant I was failing when other people from my new hire class got promoted before me. Quips of “I’ll be seeing you on the Tonight Show” meant I was lazy for no longer doing comedy.

My anger at myself for not meeting such “expectations” turned into anger at other people for “expecting too much.” I started down a “woe is me” mentality where I proclaimed my life was so difficult because people had always expected me to do great things. It didn’t matter what was true, it was what I believed.

After my second year in New York City, I transferred back to Cincinnati. Having found moderate success while gone, I was still viewed as a solid employee and welcomed back to the Queen City. The return to familiarity provided a brief jolt to my demeanor, and things were looking up. But after a few tough projects, failed stand-up attempts, and a shaky social life, whatever cancer grew in NYC returned.

With my friends and family struggling to try understand what had changed in me, I fell into a deep depression. I turned to alcohol for the same reason I had grown to hate it, the same reason I had avoided it for 26 years – I used it to escape reality, responsibility and my problems.

Though I had come to terms with other people drinking, and had realized it wasn’t evil like I thought it was growing up, the fact that I started drinking served as a catalyst to deeper despair. I would get drunk to try to drink away the fact that I drank.

On November 18, 2011, it all came to a head. After two straight years of low ratings, my manager had no choice but to let me go at work. I had gone from being a “go as high as you want to go” standout employee, to no longer working at the company.

Stand-up was a distant memory, relegated to YouTube clips of open mics, and “Best Of” DVDs from my college years. Socially I had only a couple of friends who maintained the relationship, and I remained in a single, depressed state.

I was escorted out of work in the early afternoon, and stopped by a bar, as had now become habit. I drank anything the bartender would give me, thinking about what I was going to do next- who I could call for a job. In a drunken stupor, I decided to head home.

The 5 o’clock rush hour had just begun, and I grew angry at all the people able to keep their jobs. I flew down an entry ramp to the highway, determined to get home and pass-out, forgetting all of my troubles until another day. By now, the shots at the bar had settled in, and I failed to notice the stopped traffic. At 70 mph, I crash into a stopped car, careening through the front windshield.

“Being defeated is a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent.” – Marlene vos Savant

My body lay like a torn up rag doll. I couldn’t move, and everything seemed surreal. I knew immediately that I wasn’t going to make it to see the next day. I thought back to how I ended up there on the pavement. I thought back to how I got into such a situation, when 4 years prior I seemed poised to fulfill my alma mater’s catchphrase – “Do something great.”

As people gathered around to help, just as others had done throughout my life, I blocked them out of my mind, like I had during the my mounting troubles. I thought about the cancer that ultimately led to my demise. Though it wasn’t the same cancer that had taken some of my friends and family, it still led to the same result.

It wasn’t a cellular growth, but rather a mental one. It was a growth of complacency, selfishness, and laziness. It was a growth of excuses, instead of action. I closed my eyes for the final time, and finally understood my sickness.

I had wanted so desperately to be successful that I failed to act. Sometimes out of focusing on the wrong things, sometimes out of hubris from already having had small successes, sometimes out of fear of failure, I failed to take action.

As the world around me started to fade away, I thought, “Do something great? Hell, just do something.”

I had to write a hand-written note the other day, and it reminded me of how much it really sucks when you can’t use the delete ckey to fix all of your mistakes/  So i nthe …. So to give a shout out back to the days of yore, I’ve dcecided that I’m not going to tuse the delete key while writing this post.

HOpefully everything will still remain readable, and that I don’t drag on for too long (as I won’t be dediting it back down.).

Ive heard that you;re sopposed to be able to judge how much self esteem wone ahs by analyzing their ahandwriting.  For example… The idea is that the bigger the person’s handwriting, the bigger their self eesteem (maybe because it’s realyted to people with smlow self esteem thin k people won’t read their writing if it ‘s small?).  Well if that’s the case, then I have less self–esteem thatn pre0buscent te/boy with acne.

My handwriting is about the equivalent of a 6 point font a computer (yes I’m a geek and that’s how I’m doing my comparison), but not rnearly as neat.  I’ve never really thought about it being because I have low self eseteem, I( think I’m pretty awesome), it’s more about effieciecy.

You see I’m an engieener by trade, and so it seems more efficeient to write smaller.  You have less workd to do (the words/letters/linest hat make up those wletters are smaller) and it also takes up liess space.  I remember back in college comparing notes with people, and where they’d have 30 pages of notes on a given topic, I’d have 2 1/2.  Granted part of that may have been linked to sleeping in class, but the bigger part was that I just wronte smaller, and used the space more effectively/

I guess you might say the old saying for me should go (“the pen is mighteir than the dagger..”.).  I’d fventure to say that the othe r part of it was that in elemarntary school, people would always comment that my handiwiriting was small.

As a result, I’d be sure to continue writing small, and in fact probably tried to swrite smaller,  just because of the attention it received.

I imagine that ctually happens a liot.  It’s like some type of odd reward (or stroke if you follw transactinal/game theory).  You do something weird/different, you get a reaction or attention, so you do it more often, and often more extreme (you like that sentence, I idi fo r some reason).

That’s probbly why people get multiple peircings, tatoors, or why Rosie Odonnell is becomeing more and more of a  “not nice eperson “…

But I’d better stop before I hurt some people’s brain with my terrible typing.  At firtst cglance, it seppears that my brain is thinking way to fast for my hands to type (I put in letters that belong at the end of a word at the begginning) and that I also might very well be dyslexic.

And not e that I was typign at my normalspeed, not trying to slow down just to be more accurate, or speed up fto be less.  This is about how much editing I need to do for a normal bpost (unless the fact that I’m seeing all my errors is making me type wrose, then it might be alitt le off.).

Mayboe I should consider a tpying course: “The big red doc jimped over the silver moon” or something like that.

I spent a majority of yesterday in an automobile on a trek to see a fellow Smarty Pants member perform. A Mr. Dave Powell is currently in the grad program at Second City Detroit and he was performing in Detroit yesterday, so a few of us decided to go up and see him.

The show was excellent – very funny and thought provoking – so props to the cast/writers.

There’s a Reason It’s Called Spending Time

There’s something about spending 10+ hours in a car for just over 1 hour of entertainment that really makes you think about the cost of such a trip.

Sure there were the actual expenses (gas, admission, food – all totaling about $30), but then there’s the even bigger one – opportunity cost. For those of you unfamiliar with the phrase, opportunity cost is the “price” you pay for not being able to do something else because of what you choose to do.

Though the phrase is often used in business scenarios, it can (and should) be applied in a personal sense. So in this case, the opportunity cost was spending 10 hours in a car when I could have been working on my website, writing stand-up, watching football, etc.

The Price of DIY

It’s unfortunate that most people never consider such a cost when making their decisions. There are plenty of Do-It-Yourselfers who assume that by doing something themselves, they’re saving money. And while you’ll almost always save in actual ca$h, what about the costs for spending so much time on a project?

Let’s say you want to renovate your basement. You have a contractor come in, and he gives you an estimate for $10,000 (I have no idea if this is close). He also tells you it will take 100 hours to do (again, no idea how accurate that is).

Now you think to yourself, $10,000 is a lot of money, I could do that cheaper. So you make a list of everything you’ll need, and you find that materials will only cost $5,000. You can save 5 grand by DIY! But not so fast.

If you are to do it yourself, then surely it’s going to consume a lot of your time. And unless you know exactly what you are doing, and can match the efficiency of how many ever people the contractor was going to hire, you are going to do it slower (now that I’m sure of).

So instead of 100 hours, it takes you 500 to complete.

In the example above, the opportunity cost of going with the contractor is the extra $5,000 you pay that you could spend on something else. The cost for DIY is 500 hours (less the “overhead” time of you working with the contractor) that you are now spending redoing your basement instead of something else (working more, spending time with the family, sleeping).

Time vs Money with a Splash of Enjoyment

So which option do you go with? Well that depends. How much do you think your time is worth? (This is not necessarily the same as your hourly wage where you work, but that could be  a start.)

If you’re busy, don’t really like doing construction, and feel it’s worth more than $10/hour, then the contractor is the better option. However, if you’ve got some spare time, really enjoy hands-on projects and value your time at less than $10/hour, then DIY is the way to go. Why the magic number of $10/hour? $5,000 (opportunity cost of option A)/500 (opportunity cost of option B) = $10.

The Cost of the Trip

So, was seeing the show worth $30 plus 10+ hours in a car? Without a doubt, yes.

Even though it may have easily cost me hundreds of opportunity cost dollars (I think highly of my time – modest, I know…), I would do it again in a heartbeat.

The value of supporting a fellow cast member, seeing a hilarious show, further studying my craft, bonding more with other group members, and getting to say I’ve been to Detroit (ok, this might be more of a cost), was well worth the “price of admission.”

For the last category of Personal Development Week, I’d like to talk a little bit about happiness.

The first thing I have to say is that if you take some of the steps (or at least the intentions) mentioned in this week’s previous posts (Goals and Discipline, Success, Wealth, and Health), you’ll be well on your way to finding sustainable happiness – happiness that isn’t just tied to small individual events, or fleeting emotions, but a happiness that answers the question “Am I happy?” with a resounding yes.

Happiness is a State of Being

It is important to note that happiness is a state of being.  You don’t feel happy – you live it, breathe it, be it.  And it is something you can control.  Though emotions are irrational, and you can go from happy to sad to angry in minutes, the general feeling of happiness can be sustained.  When it comes right down to it, happiness is a choice.

The funny thing is that before I started performing improv, I had this stigmatism against overly positive people as “hippies” or “free spirits” who were basically just weird.  But in improv, there’s really no such thing as a mistake because of the fundamental improv rule: Yes, And.

The Power of Yes And

The idea behind Yes, And is that you don’t negate offers or “gifts” (anything that happens in the environment), that you accept what is given and build on it.  Life as a whole can be treated in a similar way.

People sometimes ask me if I’m happy with some of the life-decisions I made (where I went to college, what my degree was, what job I took after graduating), and my answer for all of the above is yes.

In fact my answer would be yes for every life question you could ask me:

  • Are you happy you went to Princeton High School? Yes.
  • Are you happy you were an RA/RM for three of your four years at college?  Yes.
  • Are you glad you dated someone for 3 1/2 years even though it didn’t work out?  Yes.

When you consider that, I either: a) am an amazing decision maker and always choose the right thing, or b) I tend to make the best of any given situation and grow from there.  Though I do have complete faith in my decision-making abilities, when it comes to why I’m happy right now, I’m gonna have to go with B.

What I Don’t Mean

Now I’m not saying that terrible things don’t happen, or that you have to be happy 100% of the time.  I’m also not saying that you just have to accept what life hands you and never work to change it, or even that you always have to say “Yes.”

I’m merely saying that once you make a decision, or once something happens, accept it as what happened.  There’s not much sense in dwelling in the past for any longer than it takes you to learn from the experience to make a different (not necessarily “better” which is such a subjective word) decision next time.

… and the Pursuit of Happiness

There has always been a large number of research and books geared towards finding happiness.  There are different viewpoints all offering up tips (whether it’s the new “The Secret” book, Covey’s 7 Habits, or plain-old religion).

And none of the viewpoints is necessarily “wrong,” it’s just that some of them aren’t for you.

If a belief in a “master plan” created by some supernatural being helps you survive life and be happy, then good for you.  If, instead, the “Law of Attraction” seems to make sense to you and has shown you some good resuts, the keep using it.

Regardless of what your belief is, as long as it’s making you happy and not harming others, who cares what it is – I don’t.  I just care about being happy.

Does It Matter Who is Right?

You see it doesn’t matter that there are multiple, often conflicting, views on life, happiness and our existence in general.  Just because some of these theories contradict, doesn’t mean they can’t co-exist.

One of my main problems with various religions is the idea that there can only be one “right” belief and that if you aren’t following that belief your S.O.L.  If we were to consider the example of God creating each of us in his “kitchen,” how could He expect to get everyone to align with the same “gospel truth” (for Christians – Jesus) when everything else about us is different and unique to our circumstances.

What does it matter that your “savior” came down by rocket ship or from a virin?  As long as you are using that belief as a boost to your overall happiness, then it doesn’t matter.

And some people might think that this is too naive of a view on life, that things couldn’t really be that simple.  While that may in all actuality be true, I DON’T CARE, because it’s a belief that I have found that works for me.

The key is for you to explore your own feelings and beliefs.  Once you’ve identified your beliefs, and fundamentally your purpose, you can start to build towards your end goal – which of course will lead to happiness.

In today’s issue of Personal Development Week, we’re going to cover health.  You’ve spent all that time building up wealth, now lets get you to a point where you can actually live to enjoy it.

The first thing to realize is that there are really two kinds of health: physical, and mental/emotional.

Physical Health

The first kind of health, physical, is what most people think of when they hear the word “health.”  This is the general fitness related to getting your body in shape – low blood pressure, good body mass index, etc.

The secret to being physically healthy isn’t really all that secret, it only requires three things: eating right, exercising, and discipline.  Since you’re already building your discipline from the Goals and Discipline post, you’ve only got 2 more to go.

Part 1: Eating Right

Eating right, or “healthy” is probably the most challenging for me, as I’m a picky eater.  But the thing you have to remember is that we eat to nourish our bodies, NOT for pleasure.

All physiological needs are just that: needs.  They shouldn’t be desires, otherwise they have a tendency to work against you.  Eating, sleeping, breathing, and excreting are all needs of our human bodies, and should be treated as such.  I’m not saying you can never indulge, or that you should only put “fuel” in your body, but just remember foods real purpose the next time you’re going for seconds of that greasy fried chicken, and ask if your body is really going to need that.

Part 2: Exercising

For some people, exercise is the hardest part to gaining physical health, and it really shouldn’t be.  There’s no magical secret to exercise, just go out and do something.

Sure, some forms of exercise are better than others (e.g. 20 mile bike ride vs. 1 mile walk), but that shouldn’t stop you from taking the 1 mile walk.  The key is that our bodies are truly amazing machines as they adapt over time.  That means that, over time, the same 1 mile walk doesn’t create the same health benefits it once used to because the body got more efficient (wouldn’t it be nice if all we had to ever do was walk 1 mile?)

But as long as you are pushing yourself (within safe means) in each workout, whether you’re doing yoga, lifting weights, or rock climbing, you are taking steps to becoming healthier.  And like everything else this week, start small with manageable goals and exercises.

Mental Health

Mental/emotional health is a much harder issue to tackle – mostly because things like emotions are highly illogical.

Whereas there is a pretty strict cause/effect relationship regarding physical health, it’s harder to pinpoint for mental health.  For those of you not exactly sure what I mean by mental health, check out this Healthguide article on the topic.

The first thing to note about mental health is that some of the preventative measures are actually things you should do for better physical health as well (improving diet, getting enough rest, exercising).  It’s also incredibly important to mention that, unlike some aspects of physical health (barring things requiring medical treatment, but more general things like exercise), it can be tough to improve your mental health on your own, it’s a much tougher shell to crack.

Remember – emotions are illogical.  So while it may seem like you should be able to “will” yourself out of depression, or make yourself anxiety and stress free, it can be difficult (if not impossible) to do so.

At a minimum, find a close friend you can share your current state with, sometimes a shoulder to lean/cry/yell on is all you need.  If things are serious, certainly seek professional assistance in the form of a counselor, doctor or therapist.

“Fighting” Emotions

When I went through a small bout with depression in college, I attempted to hide it from the world (and was mostly successful, in fact this will be a surprise to many of you reading this).  It never got to the point that I would consider it “clinical depression” where I sought out assistance from a professional service, but it was bad enough that it affected my daily activities.

In the end what really helped me through were some amazing friends that would just sit and listen, sharing stories and making me laugh, and, of course, the passage of time.

The hardest part about getting over some things, especially stupid emotions, is that it really just takes time.  Time for it to sink in that the world is not over, that things can be better than they ever were before.

And asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, but rather one of strength.  It takes a ballsy person to be able to say, “I need help.”  It doesn’t make you any less of an amazing person.  This thing called “life” is quite a challenge – it can be tough just to live long enough to reach your death bed.

Keeping the Doohickey Healthy

Health is a serious issue, and I certainly can’t provide all of the answers regarding the subject.  Do yourself a favor and schedule an appointment with your doctor and check how the old “body” is doing.  While there, ask questions regarding your mental health as well, and really make it a point to learn to take care of your body and mind.

After all, the body is the only thing we got to transfer this brain thing around, and this brain is the only thing we have to move this body doohickey we’re stuck with.  Make sure both are in working order so that you can relish in your glory of achieving success and happiness.

The single most important thing you can do to take care of your finances is to create a budget. Sure it’s an ugly word, and not a fun process, but if you don’t track where your money is going, and try to make a plan for future revenues and expenses, you aren’t going to achieve the kind of success you want.

The Real Value of a Budget

I’m not going to pretend that I sit down and plan my budget every month and stick to it to a T (or is it tee, or tea?), but the process of just making a budget of what you’ve done in the past 3 months is eye-opening.

When I went through this process a few months ago, I discovered I was spending around $700 just for a place to live (rent, cable and other bills), $750 for transportation (car payment, insurance, and gas – close to $200 for the fuel alone), and $400 or so for food (a pretty even split between groceries and dining out).

That’s nearly $2,000 I’m spending every month just to survive (shelter, food, and of course getting to a number of places for either P&G or comedy). All things considered, this isn’t really that bad – I have no children or wife to take care, I’m only paying rent, and my car payment could be worse, but when I went back and looked at my individual expenses, it certainly could have been lower.

The advantage to completing a budget (even if it’s one based on past data, not future looking), is that it informs you of where that hard earned cash is going – and as the GI Joes told us, “Knowing is half the battle.” Once you know where your money is going, you can take steps to curtail spending in key areas to increase the overall amount of money you are saving.

What to Do With the Money You Save

Before I get into some steps to save money, I want to briefly talk about what you should be doing with the extra money you are saving.

While “investing” may be a scary word, it is absolutely necessary in today’s world. Considering the state of social security in this country these days, you can’t rely on the government to provide you sufficient funds once you retire.

You need to be proactive and plan for your own future, whether it’s having kids, going to college, or retiring. Plus investing puts your money to work and allows you to accrue income just for having money (sort of). I won’t go into details of how you can get into investing, as I am certainly not an expert. Instead, I’ll point you to http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com – the site that got me to really think about my finances.

The site is geared towards a younger audience, but it certainly has relevant information for everyone (I suggest starting here). If you’re serious about increasing your wealth and your future security, go to that site now (well, after you finish reading this post).

A Disclaimer About A List

Ok, so you’ve got your resource for what do when you have disposable income, what can you do to actually get disposable income? Below is a list of 15 tips you can do to save money. Most of them are tips I use every day, others are things I’ve read but don’t necessarily do. A few disclaimers before we get started though:

  • This list is just a set of suggestions. You don’t have to do every single thing listed to see results. You have to define which things will work for you.
  • If you take the time to actually do a budget, this list can help troubleshoot key areas. If you find that you spend a lot of money dining out, then the restaurant or food tips will be of particular interest.
  • Like we’ve talked before, it’s best to start out small. Don’t expect to find happiness or success by doing all of things listed below, as most of them require some type of sacrifice that you may think detracts from your overall happiness in life. Identify these and manage them. The list isn’t meant to turn you into an anti-social hermit that does nothing, it’s just meant to get the gears in your own head moving to find other ways to save where you can.
  • Finally, the biggest way you can increase the amount of money you have is to increase the actual amount you receive. This can be done by getting a better job, getting a raise, adding a second (or third) job. The key is that if you do increase your income, don’t increase your expenses. It’s truly powerful when you can live below your means.

15 Tips to Save Money

Ok, with all of that out of the way, here are 15 ways you can work to save money:

  1. Learn to love technology. Take advantage of new technology to save time (which then frees you up for other things) and to better educate yourself. Things like reading blogs (made easier through blog aggregators like Bloglines), listening to podcasts, and connecting with other people can help you learn new ways to save money.
  2. Become a savvy consumer. Use the Internet to do your research before you make any large purchases, and learn to negotiate prices. You’ll be surprise how many places you can actually haggle for a better deal. Check out this eHow article for more tips.
  3. Seriously, eat at home. Dining out can seriously damage the pocket book if it is done too often. The added expense of food, beverages, leaving a tip, driving to the restaurant, etc etc all adds up. When you combine smart grocery shopping with some creativity in the kitchen, you can create a number of meals that net out to be less than $3. And you don’t even have to be a great cook to dine at home. Anyone can use a George Foreman grill, and it’s perfect for hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled cheese, chicken breast, and a huge host of other things. Head over to Cheap Eats if you want to find some other inexpensive dining options.
  4. Be a freezer. If you really wanted to maximize your savings by buying groceries, learn to love your freezer. A Sam’s membership plus a sizable freezer allows you to buy in bulk and really find savings. Things like bread can be frozen now and then put in the refrigerator to be consumed weeks later. The watch-out here is that your savings from bulk purchases has to outweigh the cost of the Sam’s membership and of a new freezer (if necessary)
  5. Love water. For the times that you do dine out, stick to ordering water. Non-alcoholic drinks easily push the $2 range, and alcohol is even more – not to mention drinking water is healthier for you. If you dine out 5 times a month, that’s a savings of $10 a month or $120 a year – just to drink water. And if you must have your fix of Diet Coke or Iced Tea, buy it at the store where it only costs you $.50 a can. Drink water at the restaurant and then reward yourself when you get home with a much cheaper alternative.
  6. Be DD. I don’t drink alcohol for personal reasons, but it also turns out to be quite the money saver. Going out sober for a night nets quite a nice ROI, and not just because you aren’t spending money on drinks. If you offer to be the Designated Driver for your buddies, you can easily get them to pay for gas (if you drive your car), get them to let you drive their car (no gas or miles on yours), and/or pay your cover at the clubs/bars. They get to have a night of responsible drunkenness, and you get to have a night of free fun. If you don’t think this will work because you don’t think you can go out and have fun without drinking, then saving money shouldn’t be your only concern.
  7. Be creative. Find new ways to have fun that don’t require much money. Going to the movies is nice, but it’s also at least a $10 ordeal (whereas if you wait till it comes to DVD and do a rental it’s much cheaper). Find new and creative ways to have fun like playing Frisbee golf. Or do your research online and find free events happening around your area. Cincyupdate.com has a whole list of events going on around Cincinnati, subscribe to their email and pay special attention to the free events on Fountain Square or down by the river.
  8. Find a hobby. Hobbies can help you fill free time and prevent from spending money out of boredom. The key here is to pick hobbies that don’t require much money (so golf would be a bad idea). Consider trying knitting, reading, writing (blogs are free) or improvising.
  9. Break the materialism. Stop tying your “happiness”/confidence/perception of fun to material things. People often go shopping or get their hair done when they think they need a boost in confidence, when all they are doing is adding an expense for something they can work to get for free. Similar to drinking, learn to work on your own personality and character so that you don’t require the crutch of material things to satisfy you.
  10. Kick the habit. Whether it’s smoking, gambling, or even being addicted to coffee, habits often cost money. The cost of cigarettes continues to rise, you’ll never beat the house when gambling, and that $4 Starbucks coffee is putting a drain on your budget. And while it’s certainly not easy to kick a habit, using some of the previous posts from this week, and getting professional help where applicable, can certainly help – you’ll end up with more money and a healthier lifestyle.
  11. Drive like a granny. When you average around 3,000 miles on your car every month, gas starts to add up. But even if you only drive 5 miles to work, improving you gas mileage will always make financial sense. There are plenty of ways to improve that MPG (removing unnecessary weight from the trunk, changing your air filter when appropriate, having properly inflated tires), but one of the biggest sources of better MPG might be your own driving style. Driving the speed limit and using cruise control can easily bump up your mileage 2-4 MPG. Every car is different, though the standard is 35mph and 55mph provide the best mileage, but do your own experiment to find the optimal speed for your car. The next time you fill up your tank, reset the trip odometer and drive like normal. When you have to fill up after that, divide the number of miles on your odometer by the number of gallons it took to fill your tank back up (that’s your MPG for that tank). Now reset your odometer and drive only the speed limit. Next time you fill up, do the same division and compare the two numbers. Repeat a few times to decrease variance, and play around with your speeds, and you’ll see the difference. In addition to saving money by filling up less, you’ll be doing a small part in saving the environment.
  12. Get rid of the crap. De-clutter your life to save time when cleaning and relieve unnecessary stress. Plus if you put your garbage on eBay, you might be able make some money for getting rid of your crap. How do you know what to get rid of? If you can’t foresee needing something within the next year, get rid of it. Sure there will be a few times that you throw out something only to need it a month later, but it’s worth it to get rid of the remaining 98% of crap you’ll never need. And remember, “when in doubt, throw it out.”
  13. Don’t be dumb. Stupidity can be a big expense for some people. Speeding leads to speeding tickets and increased insurance costs. Jumping from a 10-foot ledge leads to a trip to the hospital and the cost of a cast. Take some basic precautions and save yourself some cash (because, as of yet, stupidity insurance doesn’t exist yet).
  14. Live pet free. Dogs may be man’s best friend, but if you’re really strapped for cash, he’s also an added expense. There are a number of studies that talk about the positive effects pets have on their owners, so if you need that then consider this a last resort, but if your happiness isn’t tied to having a pet, then consider finding it a good home. Dog food, bones, leashes, and the overall time it takes to care for a pet can really add up. Note: please don’t do this with children, though they are also huge expenses.
  15. Drop the Cable. Not only does TV suck away hours from your life, sapping you of your productivity, but cable is pretty expensive. As broadband Internet connections become more and more mainstream, you can find nearly everything shown on TV online for free (or at least cheap). Sites like Joost and YouTube allow you to watch all types of video content, and stations like NBC are starting to allow you to stream their shows from their websites. You can find even more if you ignore that whole “law” thing, but I am by no means endorsing that.

And there you have it – 15 tips for saving money. I realize this is quite the marathon post, but there’s a lot of content to cover. I certainly didn’t hit everything, so don’t be afraid to google specific topics that you can use some help in (which you have identified by filling out a budget, right?).

Also, be sure to check out iwillteachyoutoberich and getrichslowly for more information dedicated to taking control of your finances.