Saturday, July 01, 2006

Why Only the Minority are Rich - 5 (The Weird Factor - Secret of Wealth Creation!!)

The Plain old Weird
I don't normally use the word weird because its meaning is too encompassing. It is one of those words that can be applied to all things, all people and all situations depending on the angle of observation. This is precisely the reason I am using it now because EVERYTHING to do with getting rich, i.e. the road to it, the inheritance of it, the use of it, the spreading of it, the earning of it and the giving of it depends on something that is weird.

What do I Mean?
Here are some synonyms for weird: strange, odd, bizarre, peculiar, uncanny, eerie, creepy, unusual. But don’t misunderstand, wealth itself is none of these things, it is the journey (short or long) that takes one to it that I am describing as weird and moreover I am saying that all such journeys are weird. So let us all try to understand this weird journey. To add a little humour to our discussion, I’m going to paraphrase what Rockefeller said when he was asked what the secret to wealth was. He replied: "To bed early, rise early and strike oil."

The real meaning behind this statement, to me at any rate, is that the question is absurd. There is no secret. It is not mechanical. There is no set of instructions that guarantees wealth if you follow it. This is why the road to wealth is ALWAYS, without exception, weird.

Consider the following formula that I've devised to explain this:

M = ETW – O

You many read this as follows: Money equals Effort times Time times Weird minus Outgoings. The left hand side of the formula is purely materialistic whereas the right hand side is humanistic. A person puts in effort and time. We can scale the effort as a number between 1 and 10 inclusive. So anyone with an effort factor of 1 is very lazy whereas an effort of 10 means he or she works very hard. As for time, we'll make this a number between 1 and 24 to represent the average time spent on this activity in any one day.

We can apply this to anyone who is doing something to make money. Let’s straight away apply the formula to someone who has an ordinary job which pays an average salary. Let E = 5 and T = 8. So for one day we have:

M = 5x8xW - O = 40xW – O

But what possible number shall we give the weird factor. This really is the unknown because it is not limited to the amount of possible effort or the number of hours in a day. So what is it? Well, for this type of activity, i.e. an average job, the weird factor largely depends on the market value for that particular job. But without going into all of the different types of job and how well each pays, we can scale the weird factor to a number between 1 to 100 where 1 represents the lowest paid and 100 represents those in the highest wage bracket. But we really want a scale that can represent all people in all activities, not just the plain old employee. As it turns out, there are really only two divisions to consider. Those that work for others and those that work for themselves. So we need only consider two scales. Those with jobs as we’ve already stated are in the 1 to 100 scale but those who work for themselves, the scale is, and you’ll get a shock, -1000 to 10000. Yes, the scale must start from a negative number because working for yourself is risky which means you may in fact lose money but how much you lose is controlled largely by other parties such as creditors. At the same time the rewards are potentially phenomenal. All we have to do now is subtract the outgoings and we have found how much money we have made in one day. So getting back to our ordinary employee to whom we may attribute a weird factor of 6 gives us:

M = 5x8x6 – O = 240 – O

The outgoings aren't that important because this is probably the easiest factor to control since we can choose to spend or save. So for someone who does not save, the daily outgoing number is close to the earning or more if there is some borrowing involved.

In case you are still wondering where lies the secret if there actually is one, I can now reveal it. The only thing in the formula that is the LEAST in our control is the weird factor. It also explains why it is possible to have two neighbours living in the same area, earning more or less the same in their jobs, with a comparable set of financial responsibilities and yet there is a very great difference in the amount of money that each has. This brings us to a fundamental question:

Are we BORN with a high weird factor or can we influence it to go up or down by our behaviour, thoughts and actions? It is clearly an individualistic factor.

If it is fixed at birth, it has no prospect of ever changing. In other words, there is no possible chance on this planet that you can become rich if your weird factor is low. However much effort and time you put in, what ever degree of frugality you adopt, it simply will not happen.

On the other hand, if the weird factor is something that is in our control, however unyielding it happens to be, there exists the probability that we can do, think or behave in ways that can help us in our lives. I think that it is possible to devise similar formulae for non-monetary aspects of living such as love, leadership, influence, power, fame, intelligence, talent, etcetera. But let's not go off on a tangent and stay with money.

So Which Is It? Predestined Or Changeable
To answer this question we need only examine the evidence, and there is rather a lot of it if you know where to look. You’ll find the answers in a place called history. But not world history. I'm talking about the history of every one of us from birth to the present moment. Let's conduct a little thought experiment using a fictitious individual's life as example. I want to present to you 5 randomly chosen scenarios out of the infinite that is possible with every one that is born on this planet. Don't forget, the individual is the same, it's only the circumstances that are different.

1. Born in 1970, went to school then to college and took business studies which culminated in a thriving business in real estate.

2. Born in 1970, went to school, dropped out, took interest in antiques, specialised and became an expert in fine art and now runs a chain of outlets.

3. Born in 1970, had an accident at 10, lost the ability to speak and longed to discover a way to help all such people and invented the speaking machine. Needless to say, wealth was only around the corner.

4. Born in 1970, lost both parents at an early age and suffered much in the hands of foster parents. This led to an internet business that drove all such people to the website which grew to something like one million hits per month. Advertising revenue came flooding in.

5. Born in 1970, left school without qualifications and took a job delivering parcels for a small local company. Within 5 years gained invaluable knowledge of the area and the business. Within another 5 years a single rival business was set up that could do the job more efficiently and more cheaply. Soon, there were branches in every major city in the country.

It certainly looks as though whatever the circumstances happen to be, this person is destined to make it one way or the other. Do we conclude then that who ever it was, the weird factor was extremely high. No. Definitely not. In every case there was something that this person wanted to do but it was never to make money. It was to help people in some corner of life or some avenue of interest. Money MUST BE, without exception a bi-product NOT the driving force. It must be SECONDARY to the activity itself. I believe that there is a hidden law which says that if you do something purely for money you will never get much of it. If you do something for other people to help them or to teach them or to make their lives a little easier in some respect, this law GUARANTEES unexpected returns and guess what - those returns might not even be financial but immense satisfaction which leads to happiness and contentment directly, instead of through wealth. And yes, happiness CAN be attained through wealth.

I firmly believe that the weird factor goes up as soon as we do something because we genuinely want to help people in some way, however insignificant it happens to be. But the greater this help is, the more number of people it affects, the higher will this factor go and there really isn't an upper limit.

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Friday, June 30, 2006

Old Tea Traditions

Tea has been consumed in China for centuries, but other cultures are rich in history of this popular beverage as well. Two of those countries, Russia and England have developed decidedly different traditions over the years.

It is said that drinking tea began in China where over 5000 years ago, leaves from the plant accidentally fell into water being boiled for drinking. Needless to say, it was found to be very refreshing and it's use became widespread. Tea was introduced to Europe through the Portuguese in the early 1500’s and it didn’t take long for this beverage to become popular in many countries and traditions for English tea parties and Russian tea were formed.

This drink became so popular in both countries the each developed certain traditions as well as pots, vessels and cups to drink it from. Although the introduction of tea is centuries old, the popularity of it and the traditions associated with it remain in these cultures to this day.

In the early 1600’s, tea made it’s way to Russia. Of course, it was only the wealthy that could afford tea at first but by the end of the 1700's the price was dropping and it's popularity was spreading throughout the country.

In Russia, tea is never taken with meals. Traditionally it is taken after the meal or as a mid afternoon snack. For centuries, Russians have used a device called a Samovar to make tea. The samovar is usually put in the center of the table after dinner and everyone gathers round and takes tea which they can dilute or sweeten as they like. Russians traditionally sip tea in glasses set in silver holders and favor their tea as strong and highly sweetened – some recipes even call for tang or lemonade added to tea!

Tea was introducted to England in the mid 1600's and it's popularity spread so quickly that it was soon as popular a drink as ale! In the late 1700’s to well known tradition of afternoon tea was started by the Duchess of Bedford.

Prior to that, the English enjoyed only 2 meals – a breakfast and a dinner. The dinner was served at the end of the day and by mid afternoon you can imagine how hungry and energy depleted many felt. So, the tradition of afternoon tea was begun where tea would be served along with little cakes and sandwiches. Of course, this proved to be immensely popular and still is today!

One of the great benefits of the afternoon tea was that it necessitated fancy pieces to for service and drinking. The main pot that heated the water was usually made of silver (still a very popular item today) and this was kept over a flame so that it would be hot at all times. In addition, small porcelain tea pots were used to pour at the table and they were refreshed with the hot water from the silver pot when needed. Of course the tradition included fancy porcelain tea cups to drink from as well. These pieces are still made and used today, and the antiques are highly collectible.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow - The Art of Presentation by TV Antique Show Valuers and Appraisers

Clearly, many shows are carried by the personality of the presenter though they frequently reflect a triumph of style over substance. This, arguably, excludes Dickinson, who dominates the screen, demonstrating boundless enthusiasm and an opinion on almost everything. He is somewhat redolent of the eponymous Lovejoy, that roguish, careworn but charming dealer, so successfully played by Ian McShane in the BBC series, but his piece de resistance surely has to be his hair. Whatever authority he may exude examining a Victorian tortoise shell box or a chipped Minton plate, one cannot but be drawn to his vertiginous mullet, a shock of hair so dense it could comfortably accommodate a nest of birds. I think he could probably make a passable living as an Elvis impersonator such is his showmanship but this is in marked contrast to another member of the bouffant brigade, the erstwhile host of The Antiques Roadshow, Hugh Scully, who looked as though he’d taken a dose of mogadon every time he stepped in front of the camera.

Then again, The Antiques Roadshow experts generally come over as a pretty uninspiring crowd. Some of them are well qualified on their specialist subjects and, indeed, are often a fount of knowledge but I’ve seen more verve from a blind man crossing a busy dual carriageway. They come from near and far, many representing leading auctioneers, but their delivery and mode of questioning are so entirely predictable, this show must possess the most threadbare autocue in television history. Can it be a complete coincidence that The Antiques Roadshow is scheduled alongside another BBC stalwart, Songs of Praise, a programme that appears to be populated by precisely the same audience, albeit the host is in a frock? Perhaps they’re all seeking salvation for ghastly misjudgements or overinflated expectations.

Anyhow, some experts are notably well informed so should, for example, James Braxton of Edgar Horn or Roy Butler of Wallis and Wallis pop up on your screen talking about Tunbridgeware and guns respectively, please pay attention. These guys know what they are talking about. The problem is that the producers seem hell bent on incorporating all manner of rubbish in their desire to be egalitarian and inclusive and fail miserably in the process. It would be far better television, frankly, if the nominated expert took one look at a given object, profusely thanked the owner for shlepping it over land and sea, and then recommended it for firewood. Why has The Antiques Roadshow not created a Christmas special of all those unmitigated disasters brought in by the deeply earnest, deeply greedy and deeply ignorant? Don’t you secretly long for a sarcastic appraiser to enquire “You really dragged this piece of crap in here thinking it was worth something? What do you use for brains? Stop wasting my time!” Is anybody home at Broadcasting House? And is anybody listening?

Part two in the series of articles by Howard Lewis.(Read part one... The Price is Right: Appraisal, Valuation and Inspired Guesswork or the Rise of TV Antique Shows and the Collecting Bug in the invaluable blog at

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Plastic Basketballs

Plastic basketballs are mainly used for advertising during basketball games, showing support for a particular team, as fun invitation to parties and get together, or as souvenirs. Plastic basketballs are very inexpensive, usually costing around $1-$3. Many websites and stores retailing plastic basketballs also customize or imprint them. The term plastic basketball is inclusive of both plastic and vinyl basketballs.

Vinyl basketballs are softer than plastic or acrylic basketballs. They are lobbed into crowds of spectators at basketball matches for advertising purposes, or to display support for a team. The promotional balls have a company or product logo imprinted on them while the basketballs showing team support have the team logo and a slogan showing backing for the team. Vinyl basketballs can be re-inflated, unlike plastic balls, and they are softer. retails the best plastic basketballs. It sells both plastic and vinyl basketballs with custom logos or slogans. A 3 ¼” diameter plastic basketball costs around $1.5 for 100 balls. As the quantity of balls ordered increase, the price comes down. So 500 plastic balls sell for around $1 each. They are available in red, blue, green, yellow and orange colors. These basketballs are also in demand as corporate gifts and souvenirs at corporate functions and fundraisers. also retails vinyl and plastic mini basketballs of 4 ½” diameter. Each plastic ball costs $2 for 50 balls, with $20 extra for printing a single color design on it. also retails 3 ¾” colored basketballs of plastic. They are lightweight and have an imprint area panel of 2 ¼” diameter. Then there are stores like Blair Candy, which have put plastic basketballs to innovative usage by filling them up with candy and referee whistles to be distributed during games and parties.

The reason plastic basketballs are preferred over leather or rubber imprinted basketballs is that they are cheaper, lighter and more durable. There is no fear of punctures or ruptures, or any need to re-inflate these balls.

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Theory Only; Preventing International Terrorism

Perhaps we should discuss some theory of exploitation of another mans defense system. The best way to exploit a defense system is to find a whole or weakness. Since the United States knows all our own weaknesses we should find a way to shore up the most critical, yet realize that we do not have to shore up everyone provided we have a contingency or back-up plan in case of attack. Think of a football team with a safety, if the opponent breaks thru the first two lines of defense then your safety picks them up and takes them out.

If the International Terrorists were to believe that there are ten ways to move people, freight and goods, then the disruption of the system(s) of any one, two or three makes no difference. So once the system is up and running and it is known to be redundant to such a large degree, then the game is over, we win, since no one would attack knowing our will could be compromised, as the system can repair itself just like the human body. If they take out two refineries, we have 1000 more. If they take out power lines, we re-route. If they take out rail lines at a choke point we ship by truck; if they take out a freeway, we re-route immediately. Thus all such targets would be silly. They would not affect our civilization, merely provide more work for Americans to rebuild stronger, thus we are unaffected. We win in advance as they know it is no use at all.

Self-healing distribution channels for power, water, waste, transportation, information, etc are all in place. So by building our civilization strong we also protect our selves from Natural Disaster disruptions as well. No International Terrorist of act of God can defeat us, that seems to be the answer. No weakness without back up. We can beat them if they try or we have already beat them if they don't then onto the next sector to protect. Protecting the Nation becomes a process of elimination of any and all weakness.

Think of it like this. There is no good or evil, as it all just is. But the closest thing to evil is mediocrity, in difference and weakness. If your remove them from your systems, you do not have to worry about being attacked, because if you are you are strong enough to instantly re-group, get a little pissed off and rage holly hell on your opponent. It is merely a decision of our nation to be in it to win it and not let anything stand between us and goal-line without being totally obliterated. Again without malice or anger, as it is only about one thing; Winning and that means the Protection of the American People and our civilization.

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