You Are What You Spend Your Money On

Seattle Rock'n'Roll Marathon
Seattle Rock’n’Roll Marathon, You are what you spend your money on – by Billy Peck

With a new plan in place, based on some online research, my wife and I recently went through all of our old financial paperwork in an effort to purge everything we didn’t need but were, for some reason, holding onto. We took a class on personal finance last year and learned more in about six weeks than I ever had in my life. It wasn’t rocket science or CPA level tax advice, just basic tools and steps to take toward personal financial freedom.

Going through my old stuff, I had paperwork and receipts dating back to just after my college graduation and even though everything was organized by year, there was way too much stuffed into my filing cabinet. After we came up with a plan of what we were going to save and what we were going to get rid of, we carved out a day from our calendar and spent the necessary time to get things cleaned up, and that meant an entire day. I’ll be honest – I wasn’t looking forward to this, but I knew it was necessary.

Now, it wasn’t necessarily a bad experience, although it was much more exhausting than I expected…filtering through files and papers and receipts and taking the occasional snack break really takes it out of you. Some of this process was tedious, as can be expected, but the thing that surprised me the most was that I actually kind of enjoyed going through my old receipts from way back when. Looking at some of those receipts instantly took me back to old memories and experiences that covered almost a decade of time.

As I looked through my old expenditures and thought about the different things I spent my money on, I learned a little bit more about myself. Almost like writing in a journal gives you a written record of your thoughts, going through old receipts gives you a historical record of what you ate, where you went and what you did – how you spend your life. Movies. Restaurants. Stores. Travel. All of those experiences carried some sort of financial obligation and I began to reflect on how I got to where I am now…consider the perspectives – personal, professional, health and wellness.

My interests haven’t changed a whole lot; I still do and enjoy many of the same activities I always have, but the thing that piqued my interest the most (although I shouldn’t really be surprised) were my grocery store receipts. It was really interesting going back to look at the various food and drink items I’ve purchased over the years for myself and sometimes for others. There were definite trends to what I bought and when I bought. What days of the week, what times of day and what items I purchased those different days and times. It was only just a few years ago that I really started taking my health more seriously and even though I really enjoy good food, I enjoy food that tastes good even more – and my receipts reflected that. It’s interesting how you look back at your life and see so many changes. So many experiences. So much personality and self. I saw that in my receipts that day a few weeks ago, going through my personal financial history.

I think now about how those receipts reflect who I was and who I am now. What am I spending money on now? We all need food to survive, but the category of food is huge. Grocery stores (supermarkets really) are some of the biggest stores we’ll ever step foot inside and some are as big as entire shopping malls. And some are so unique and small you can only buy a few very specific items.

So what food do you spend your money on? I spent a good amount of my money for many years on food that probably wasn’t the best choice possible; admittedly I still do this to an extent. I definitely ate some good, healthy things and plenty of it, but there were many choices in there that I could have done without and my body reflected those choices. Then, a few years ago, my receipts reflected a change in those choices though. I started buying and checking out books from the library about healthy lifestyle choices. I signed up for a health coach through my insurance plan. I even started buying new gear for my bicycle and started getting interested in group fitness activities and events. I slowly started to to take responsibility for my health and stopped blaming everything outside my own control – and that was a hard decision and one I try to commit to every single day.

Since the summer of 2012 I’ve eaten more vegetables than ever in my life, trained for and run two half-marathon races, trained for and run one full marathon race, hiked many miles on mountain trails, joined in on fitness classes at the local gym/sports club, biked so much I’ve had to change my bicycle tires because the tread was so worn out and now I try to walk at least a mile a day. My receipts have changed quite a bit since I graduated from college and I’m proud of that fact. Small daily choices turn out to be the way we spend our lives.

There’s a lot of advice out there and many great ways to make positive changes in your life and this blog post is another suggestion and perspective on how to do that – change how you spend your money. What change do you want to see in your life? Weight loss? Better relationships? More experiences? More fulfillment and less worry? Stop spending money on the things that don’t matter and spend money on the things that do – you are what you spend your money on. We can’t get through life without money, so use it as a tool to help you get what you really want and less of what you don’t. Do some work on yourself, get a hold of your finances and take control of your life, one penny, one dollar at a time. If you want to know more about the personal finance class I took, let me know – it completely changed my perspective on money.

It’s amazing how personal and psychological money can be. We use money to get what we want, to make ourselves feel better, to numb our pain, to make ourselves feel good, to help other people – oh yeah, to help other people! Use your money to make small, daily choices in the direction of where you eventually want to end up. You are what you spend your money on, so what do you want to be?

Boom.

Leadership Lessons with Bill – Good, Good, Bad

Leadership Lessons for better Group Dynamics
Huddle up for leadership lessons with Bill – Building Positive Group Dynamics through Sharing

As part of the employee training program I’ve developed over the last couple of years, I came up with the idea of doing a quick team-building activity with my staff on game days right after everyone arrives and before we get started with our work. We do work in sports, so I wanted these activities to come across as a pre-game speech or huddle…that special ritual that very few get to witness. Something to inspire; something to bring the team closer together; something to make us better. This post is part 2 of 7 for the 2014 version of Leadership Lessons with Bill – Good, Good, Bad.

Good, good, bad was not originally my idea, but one I took note of when talking about leadership with someone else I know. I don’t know if there is an original author, but it’s a great activity for developing rapport and confidence within a group setting and works best with a group of around 4 or more people and especially with medium sized groups of probably not more than 15-20 people. Depending on the size of the group, this activity should take anywhere from 10-25 minutes.

To begin this exercise, it’s best to clear the air at the beginning that no one should speak unless it is their turn to either compliment someone else or share about themselves. This activity is not meant to be a debate, but rather an activity geared around respect and mutual understanding. If your team is experiencing internal conflict, this might be a good activity to try when tempers are calm and energy is low. This is not something you’d want to try in the heat of an argument.

First, arrange everyone in a circle so they can all see each other clearly, seated is preferred. Choose one person in the group to be the “focal point” first and ask everyone else in the circle to say one compliment or one thing they admire or respect about the chosen “focal point” person. After everyone in the group has had an opportunity to say something to the “focal point,” the chosen person for this round must say one good thing about his or her self and one thing they want to improve on – hence the good, good, bad.

Repeat this process so that everyone in the group hears one good thing from each other person and also shares what they think is good about their own self and what they feel they could improve on at work.

The purpose of this group exercise is to build rapport and confidence in a group setting by focusing on the good qualities of each person and translating that into how each person’s unique skills are beneficial to the group. Each person is different and has different strengths and weaknesses, so it is only once everyone in the team, first, recognizes those differences, and second, embraces the fact that others may be better at some tasks than they might be themselves. Furthermore, by asking everyone to say something nice about every other person on their team, they are building a safe environment for sharing and thus setting the stage for better outcomes later. The good brain chemicals start flowing and most often everyone leaves feeling inspired and ready to take on the day. You can’t measure the ROI of this exercise in pure dollars, but you’ll definitely feel better about the people you work with when you’re finished.

When I tried this with my team a few weeks ago, I thought it went really well. The first few compliments were generic, but with a little probing and encouragement to dive deeper and more personal, the rest of the group comments were very poignant and sincere. My hope for you now is that you make team building and leadership development a regular activity and use this idea to improve your team dynamics, encourage group sharing and develop rapport inside your group.

Let me know in the comments what you think or if you end up trying this out with your group. I’d love to hear how things work out for you.

GO Forth!

Leadership Lessons with Bill – Back to School

Back to school leadership lessons
Back to school leadership lessons with school supplies.

You may know that I work in athletics and if you’ve been reading this blog for a while you may also know that before every football game last year I did a leadership lesson with my staff, most of whom were undergraduate college students, but not all. The lessons covered various topics, but really it was just meant as a way bring my team closer together, build some camaraderie and get excited about the upcoming game.

Well, this year is no different and a few of our returning student workers actually started talking about “Bill’s Leadership Lessons” before the season started. I thought that was pretty cool and took that as a sign that they enjoyed the conversations we had and were looking forward to learning more. The first lesson for this football season I developed around the theme of “back to school.” Even though the particular university that I work for is on the quarter system and classes don’t start until the end of September, the local schools all started at the end of August and there was a general feeling of excitement and anticipation in the air. That feeling could have also been because of the start of the college football season, but either way, it was a fun time.

For this particular lesson on the morning of the first home game, we were a little pressed for time, so I had to improvise the lesson I had planned into only about 10 minutes. Once everyone had their work station setup and got checked in, we all gathered in a separate room where I had already laid out a bunch of school supplies. Included were a stapler, a pen, a pencil, a binder clip, a paper clip and a few other miscellaneous items you might find in a student’s backpack or on a back to school shopping list. Back to school shopping was probably one of my most favorite things to do growing up, so even when we didn’t really need something, we often got a bunch of new stuff for school.

As everyone entered the room, I asked them all to take one item from the pile of school supplies and form a circle. Once everyone had an item, I asked them to describe the item they chose in as much detail as they could – the function of the item, the size, shape, material it was made of and other unique characteristics. As they did so I ask the others in the group to comment on anything the person speaking may have forgotten about or didn’t think about during their turn to speak.

Once everyone had a chance to go talk about their item, I rounded out the conversation with the metaphor that each item, although unique, is part of a bigger group – school supplies.

Just as every student starts off the new year with a new set of gear to help them learn, so are we a part of a team and a department and a university trying to do something great for our community and the customers we serve. Each of us has our own unique gifts and qualities that make us special and valuable as part of a team.

Also, being that this was back to school season, we all get the opportunity to renew our commitment to each other, to ourselves and to the mission we serve. Back to school time carries a sense of renewal and refreshment that helps remind us that we have the opportunity to learn and grow every day and that we must not waste the valuable resource of time.

Even though this lesson revolved around school supplies, you could perform this exercise with an set of unique objects as a metaphor for group dynamics and team building. I didn’t have a backpack, but that item could be seen as the leader of the group – the thing that keeps everything else together. Without the backpack, you wouldn’t be able to carry all of your supplies with you to and from school. Also, without the supplies, the backpack with not be very useful in helping someone learn. Both are necessary for the success of the other. So also are all the people on our team necessary for the success of the group, the team and the university. In our own small way, we all matter and together we are strong.

Consider how a small example of leadership and team dynamics might help your coworkers or employees benefit from being reminded that they are valuable and them being present really matters. Also, let me know what you think in the comments.

Go Forth!

Self Identity: A Story About Growing Up

Billy Peck High School Picture for Graduation
Billy Peck’s High School Graduation Picture

Have you ever considered how important your name is to your vision of yourself, your self identity? Perhaps your formal name has a nickname or perhaps you prefer to be called something other than what your parents named you or what’s on your social security card. If you do have a nickname you probably developed an identity for that name while you were growing up or for something you do or did.

My nickname growing up was always Billy, a common nickname for the name William, my legal first name. That was what I went by and that was how I viewed myself…until one evening my freshman year of high school when that all changed. Here’s a story about how that all changed and how I started viewing myself as “all grown up.”

In school I always tried to do my best and was always looking for ways to earn extra credit so that if I fell short on a test or project, I could still keep my near-straight A report card. At one point during my freshman year we were informed that one of the local libraries in town was hosting a poetry night at a local outdoor theatre. There were going to be several children’s and young adult authors and poets there that intended on doing interactive skits and readings from their repertoire for (and with) the audience. It must have been October or November, as the weather was still pretty decent and made for a comfortable night as long as you had a few blankets and chairs. The park had a nice stage with plenty of lights and a wide open area for probably 500 spectators or more to spread out and get comfortable and the audience was full of families with plenty of kids of all ages.

My English class teacher that year told us that if we attended this event and wrote a synopsis afterward explaining what happened and what we learned about poetry and writing that we’d get extra credit…well say no more I thought to myself! So poetry night comes around, we get our space on the lawn in the back toward the left, probably a result of having to drive near across town and getting there later than anticipated, and settle in to our spot. The event starts and it turns out to be a really fun night. The authors are really engaging, throwing in enough humor to make the adults in the audience laugh, but also engaging enough to keep the kids of all ages entertained and inspired.

In the middle of one author’s set, he requested that a few volunteers from the audience come up to be a part of his show for one scene. He wanted a few kids, a few teenagers and a couple of adults. Being the outgoing and charismatic freshman teenager that I was, I of course jumped up to volunteer for one of the teen spots, but because I have always been pretty tall for my age, he mistook me for an adult volunteer. I immediately felt embarrassed and a little nervous, but reluctantly made my way to the stage anyway. In the authors defense, it must have been difficult to see the audience in front of the bright stage lights and with minimal lighting on the actual audience itself, so of course that tall guy in the back must be a parent…of course.

So we all gather on the stage. The author lines us up.

I really wish I could remember his name because he was such a great storyteller. I still remember part of the story he told right before he asked us up on stage. It was about a guy with really long arms that were so long they would drag the ground as he drove in his car. His arms were so long that the rings he wore on his fingers would make sparks as he drove. When he wanted to stop the car, he didn’t any brakes because he could just squeeze one of the tires with his fingers. I can’t remember the rest of the story, but I still clearly remember how great this guy was at public speaking and sharing his work in front of a crowd.

So anyway, I’m standing up there on stage with a bunch of other kids and at least one other adult and I’m about 15 years old at the time, probably wearing a hoodie and baggy jeans. Yeah, you remember baggy jeans. Those were all the rage back in the late 90s and early 2000s. The baggier the better. Nowadays the kids all seem to be about skinny jeans – oh how times change.

So we’re standing there and the author goes down the line asking us all our names and the whole time I’m thinking to myself – what are you doing?! You’re not a parent. Now you’re going to be up on stage with a bunch of other people you don’t know who are all going to realize you’re not a adult and you might mess up the skit you’re about to be a part of – all because you’re so tall! Even as I was walking up to the stage I was hoping it would be alright that I was up there…I mean, he made the mistake of thinking I was an adult. I guess I didn’t sit down quick enough when he was finished picking the kid volunteers and moved on to the adults…

Now, as you can probably tell by the web address/domain name of this blog, I’m named after my dad. That’s what the “II” means at the end of my name – the second. William T Peck, II (the second). My dad goes by Bill with everyone he knows and I’d heard stories that he was called Billy when he was a kid, so at some point prior to this night I probably thought about how that’s what you’re supposed to do when you grow up – you get a grown up name. Well, that and I just wanted to be more like my dad. So when the author gets to me in the line of introductions and asks what my name is, I say in my deepest teenager, voice-almost-cracking type of voice…

“BILL”.

Not Billy, Bill.

Now this is the first time I had ever referred to myself as Bill with anyone and the first time I had probably ever said it out loud and I have no clear idea why. I figured that if this author guy thinks I’m an adult, I better give him an adult name, and out came Bill. The author of course didn’t know any of this was going on in my head and just moved on down the line and we went on with the show.

When it was all over I returned to my family’s space on the lawn in the back and they all gave me a hard time about it, but to them I was still Billy. The show was on a Friday or Saturday night, so the following week when I got to English class, to my surprise, my English teacher called me Bill – that stopped me dead in my tracks. Yep, she was there and saw the whole thing. She said that because I had referred to myself as Bill in public that from that day forward she would call me Bill, and so she did and so I became Bill.

From that point forward I started the slow transition from Billy to Bill, both publicly as well as personally. For a long time I wasn’t sure what I should call myself or how I should think of myself. Was I a kid trying to be an adult? Was I an adult just trying to be a kid? Probably both, but that’s a conversation for another time.

So that’s the story of how I became Bill. I still think of and refer to myself as Billy, depending on the situation. But until we get to know each other better, please, call me Bill. 😉

Boom!