Why buying a house is a sucker's game

I've said it before, buying a house for financial reasons is a sucker's game.

Most of you think I'm crazy.  I don't care.  The financial evidence does not stack up at all in favour of buying a house.  Sure, you can buy a house, but it is not a home.  A house becomes a home not due to the financials or ownership piece, but due to emotional decisions associated with the purchase.

But don't take it from me, listen to the experts:

Try to read all of the above without a bias.  Then ask yourself, 'Do I desire to purchase / Did I purchase a house for financial or emotional reasons?'

On being biased

When someone has an opinion that is different to ours, the natural inclination is to assume that there is something wrong with their view. We believe our opinion is the right one, and we look for all the arguments to support our position and refute theirs.

This however is not a truly unbiased assessment. A truly unbiased view must listen to the arguments on both sides before making a decision.

A number of non-fiction books are written this way. The author starts with a preconceived opinion on something and will have a cognitive bias toward finding information to support their view. Sometimes they will include counter arguments, but these are often with the follow up of refuting them with a predetermined refutation. In other words, they don't truly assess the evidence in an unbiased manner before reaching a conclusion.

Have you truly ever remained unbiased when assessing an argument?

When your routine is interrupted

If you are working on developing a routine, it is likely to be interrupted by circumstance from time to time.

When this happens, what do you do to get it back on track?

How to brew the perfect green tea

I've historically hated coffee (although that is changing).  Instead, I've usually opted for tea, and green tea more specifically.  But I never really knew how to make a good cup of tea until a few years ago.

I still remember the day I walked into a particular tea store for the first time.  Looking around, all the strange scents and aromas bought a pleasant and warm feel to the place, even though it made me feel like a hipster.  Speaking of hipsters, the sales guy was definitely one, with well-oiled beard that had been groomed to provide a casual-edgy sort of look.  He was talking to customers and drinking from a pint-sized tea cup.

"Can I help you?" he asked.

"Yes.  I like drinking tea but know nothing much else about it.  Can you help me?"

"Sure bro", he replied, "Let's begin at the beginning."

He proceeded to teach me that:

  • Ice tea is a completely different product to hot tea.
  • Black tea is best steeped at 90 degrees celsius.
  • Green tea is best steeped at 70-80 degrees celsius.
  • Green tea steeped at a temperature higher than this will burn the tea leaves, resulting in a bitter taste.
  • That the easiest way to get a nice cup of tea without buying the whole tea pot set is to buy an infuser and tea leaves for use with a cup.
"In order to get the temperature right, the easiest way is to boil water in a kettle and to fill your cup with 20-30% cold water before adding the boiling water and the infuser carrying the tea leaves.  Then let it steep for about a minute.  If you want to reduce the caffeine, you can throw out the first steep and repeat the process."

And that is how I have made my tea ever since.

How do you make your favourite cup of tea?

Why More is Less

Do you often find that the more options you have, the less satisfied you are when you finally make a decision?

As a former consultant I spent a lot of my time as an analyst. Analysts can be at risk of suffering suffering from 'analysis paralysis', the idea that you spend so much time studying the data and related options you become paralysed in making a decision.

This applies equally to many things in our lives everday:
  • What type of toothpaste should I use?
  • Which book should I buy next?
  • What exercises will help me achieve my goals?
  • Should I rent or buy?
  • Who should I spend my time with?
  • What car should I purchase?
  • Etc.
Our options are near-limitless, which has it's advantages.  The downside is that these extra options often result in less decisions.

What we often need to do is make effective decisions that allow us to move forward rather than being paralysed in one place.  In working my way through The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz, one particular thought struck me as particularly valuable; rather than striving for 'best' we should be content with 'good enough'.  

For example: Is this car good enough to get me from A to B safely, even if it's not the best car on the market?  By asking if something is good enough for our purposes, we start to limit our options and make actionable decisions.

The best thing?  We actually have less buyer's remorse the less options we consider.  So often it makes better sense to stick with the option we have already made rather than continuing to explore the alternatives.

If you would like to explore this concept further, I would recommend:
How could you benefit from deciding on an option that is 'good enough'?

Appreciating the little things

We often forget to appreciate the little things that happen on a daily basis:

  • Reading that chapter of a novel
  • Persisting with a new habit
  • The caring words of a colleague
  • Touching base with a family member.
The list could go on.  Our appreciation of these little things compounds over time.  If we neglect to appreciate them today, we're doing ourselves a disservice for tomorrow.

What little things do you have an appreciation for today? 

How you can keep a journal with ease

I've commenced my latest experiment - journalling.  I had heard about the five-minute journal ad nauseam, so I thought I would give it a try.  You can buy a physical version, but I'm using with the iPhone version, which is a third of the price.  

There are lots of reasons to keep a journal, but the main ones for me personally are:
  • To keep track of what I do each day
  • To try and develop a more positive attitude (I tend to be skeptical / cynical by default).
This app contains a few simple concepts, such as gratitude training and positive psychology questions to help people achieve a happier outlook with just a few minutes each day.

They also include quotes.  Today's quote is from James Barrie, "Life is a long lesson in humility."

What sort of a journal (if any) do you maintain on a daily basis?

How to remember which bread plate is yours

Have you ever been to a restaurant where you have a drink and a bread plate on each side of you, but you aren't sure which ones are yours?

Trouble be gone!  You can struggle no more by learning this little formula.

When you sit down at the table, make both of your hands into an 'Okay' symbol, but keep your fingers together, like this:

(Image source: http://accidentalepicurean.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/Hands012.jpg)

Your left hand should look like a 'b' and your right hand should look like a 'd'.  Your bread plate (b) will be on your left and your your drink (d) will be on your right.

I mentioned this once to someone who used to manage wait staff.  They said they wish they had known it, as it would have saved them so much time trying to explain to people how to set things up correctly.

Do you use any techniques such as this to help you remember things?  If so, have you considered sharing them with your friends or colleagues to help make their lives a little bit easier?

Employees vs Employers

The debate on whether it is better to be an employee or an employer often reminds me of a thought from Seneca.

Seneca believed the ideal position is not to be a slave or to have slaves, but rather to be both free from slavery and from needing slaves.

The current Pope is a good example of this.  He cooks his own meals.  He doesn't want to be waited on.  He acknowledges we are an inter-dependent culture but is happy to maintain his independence in some areas.  I respect that.

Another example was my old building teacher, Steve Moxham.  Steve used to run a construction company with nine employees.  He did the math and realised he could make the same amount of profit with just him and one extra person.  

So Steve went down to the job site that day and found 8 of his 9 staff slacking off.  He proceeded to sack them and went back to working with the one staff member that was diligent when everyone else wasn't.  Steve was the type of guy that would agree with Seneca's thoughts.

It doesn't matter so much where you are today.  What matters is where you are heading.

Are you aspiring to be an employee, employer, self-employed or other?

If It's a Maybe, It's a No

If you’re unsure on whether you want to do or commit to something, use this saying.
If you’re not saying ‘yes to something’, but are thinking, ‘maybe’, it’s a no.

Take this example.  Recently I was asked if I wanted to go to the movies to see a film I was not interested in watching.  It was not a ‘yes’, but for social reasons it was a ‘maybe’.

Historically I would say no in this situation, but recently I’ve found myself diverting back to saying ‘maybe’.  Usually when I say no I tend to be straight to the point, which can sometimes be considered offensive.  That’s never the intention, but it’s because I often fail to deliver the message as gracefully as I probably should.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, where you’re thinking ‘maybe’ about something, say no.  Unless it is a definite yes, it is far better to keep that time available for another opportunity that may very well be a definite yes.

Here’s a sample script for how to do this politely:

“Thanks for the offer, but unfortunately I won’t be able to make it this time.  That being said, could you please let me know about the next time?”

Are there things in your life that you are currently saying ‘maybe’ to when really you should be saying ‘no’?