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Flash to Fallow: Mother Nature’s 5 Financial Lessons

4 Oct

This post originally appeared on blogher’s ‘Diary of a Single Professional Woman’

Nature is rich – in resources – just like I want to be.

I often say ‘Everything I need to know about the economy and life I learned from Mother Nature’.   As fall sends nature’s flash into fallow (or dormancy), it’s the perfect time to learn from her (save, spend, grow) sustainability plan.   After all, she’s been around a long time – so what does she know that we don’t?  And more importantly what can we learn so we spring open along with the crocuses come April?   Here’s my simplistic, and metaphoric thoughts on ‘environmental economics’ to kick around along with the leaves.

seedling

Fall may feel like an end rather than a start – look out the window and nature looks like it is dying.  Ha!  Mother Nature is transitioning from her extroverted spring/summer flash to a well-deserved introverted fall/winter recovery time.  Her withdrawal of energy allows time to reflect, rejuvenate, and save for spring’s big bloom roll-out.

Shorter days likely darken our mood.  Especially as color leaves our external environment.   Green, in particular colors our thoughts – and the U.S. dollar or greenback, that universal currency.  Simply:

Lush, rich, life = Green

Green = Money

Green = Nature

Nature = Resources

Resources = Money

Money = Nature

Nature = Resources = Life

Yet, when it comes to linking the economy with the environment, it seems we are colorblind, too often living in the red.  I think we need to ask: which resources are needed for life?

For a brief period of time, I thought it was a ‘red handbag’.  As you’ve read,  it was a temporary want.  Sure, I love ‘stuff’ that makes my apartment home.  But honestly, I don’t need it – I just want it.   The only resources any of us really need for life are oxygen, water, and food.  Resources only nature can provide contrary to food package’ ingredient listings.

I say our challenge is working with Mother Nature for our needs while satisfying our human nature with our wants.

It’s asking:  What Would Mother Nature Do (WWMND) for economic success?   She’d say begin with her 5 steps:

1.  Balance:    Mother Nature has obviously spent plenty of time on a playground seesaw.  She understands the need to maintain balance even while going up and down.   She uses what she has – while saving a little for the future.    Mother Nature foregoes debt, once her bottom line turns from green to red, she catapults into endangerment/extinction.

Lesson:   We may become morally, emotionally, financially bankrupt overusing resources, causing our internal peace (balance) to become extinct.  Live under your means to keep your personal seesaw going.   Debt drives your energy, emotions, finances and goodwill into the red.  And remember: There is no plastic – no credit cards – found in nature.

Maintaining balance, like on a see-saw can seem like child's play.
Maintaining balance, like on a see-saw can seem like child’s play.

2.  Save:   Mother Nature saves everything including those piles of leaves in your yard.   This is not hoarding.  She reduces those dead leaves/blooms by recycling (decomposers de-clutter causing decaying leaves to smell like a frat house bathroom on a Sunday morning) and reusing (notice those leaves are gone by spring – broken up and back into the soil like using old clothes to make a quilt).  All this saving leads to new blooms – and a reminder that the future is no predictor of the past.

Lesson:  use what you have to grow your future – like with an IRA.    And don’t bother raking those leaves in your yard!

3.  Spew seeds:  Seeds are nature’s C.D.’s (certificates of deposit), little packets of possibility to ensure future growth.   They even sound similar!   Seeds, like C.D.’s only open at the right time, in the right place, and the right conditions – and they are supported by all those unused seeds and leaves that ‘die’.  There are even special seeds that open during a forest fire to ensure that tree species survival.  Kinda like emergency C.D.’s/funds.  

Lesson:  save for emergencies as well as the future – though the stock market provides better returns than C.D.’s.

Nobody would touch this funky burr-covered seed till it was already  open (like all CD's should be!)
Nobody would touch this funky burr-covered seed till it was already open (like all CD’s should be!)

4.  Diversification: The healthiest forest and gardens are filled with diverse trees that play host to lots of different bugs, and are called home by lots of birds.   Having only one species like Dutch Elm (on decorative paths) found one ‘sick’ tree caused them all to die.

Lesson:  Diversification of your holdings maintains balance and growth so even if your ‘Dutch Elm’-like stock tanks/dies, other stock species survive.

5.  Be sustainable:  Mother Nature thrives because everything she has is used and supports everything else, even though it may seem to be in conflict.

Lesson:  Invest in things that feed your future.  Material things that overwhelm you and end up in landfills throw you off-balance and leave nothing to decompose – unlike the leaves left in your yard that will decompose to nurture spewed seeds.  Experiential investments always leave you with seeds or kernels of thought and growth.

Part of the Coney Island boardwalk by the NY Aquarium
Part of the Coney Island boardwalk by the NY Aquarium

 Mother Nature’s 5 lessons keep you blooming in all seasons:

  • This holiday season, stay green and out of the red by matching  spending with your values (http://communicationessentials.wordpress.com/values-activity/) and keep you growing.
  • Make every day is your special Valentine’s Day by making black the new red.  Love yourself by loving your finances and living under your means to live fully in the future.

And really, just one more thing to think about:  We may say money is the root of all evil, and we should add, resources are the cause for conflicts personally and globally...

Meanwhile, what steps will you take to support your spring blooms?

10 Characteristics to ensure a Big Bang Life!

21 Jun

Today’s the day to nurture and flaunt your inner scientist!

Do you diligently watch Big Bang Theory reruns?  Sneak into Star Trek conventions in strange cities?

While TV’s Big Bang nerds are cast as socially inept, it’s likely the coolest kids would be envious of their social network.

Like most things in life, it’s not what you know  but how you use it.

Time to rethink scientist’s bad rep.

Chemist from NYC Tech Day (google???)

Chemist from NYC Tech Day (google???)

Believing human behavior mimics the laws of science,  what makes a good scientist?  Is it biology or chemistry?  Alchemy at birth?

Here’s a compilation of the best scientists 10 characteristics.  For fun, insert your name for the word scientist:

1. Curiosity:  good scientists are insatiably curious about life’s ‘every things’.  I imagine their favorite word, like most 2-year old’s is ‘WHY’, marrying curiosity with child-like wonder.  (Hmm, picture the progeny!)  Curiosity can turn any experience into an adventure:  it prompts us to act, to take risks.  Though I wonder:  how will our ability to google everything impact our pursuit of curiosity?

Do we love George because he's a monkey - or because of his mischievious and enviable curiosity?

Do we love George because he’s a monkey – or because of his mischievous and enviable curiosity?

2. Open-minded and free of bias:  Great scientists are objective.  Imagine entering into situations and interactions without prejudice or tight and tiny opinions.  Open-minded scientists suspend judgement about findings until they are sure (and scientists really never are).  Wait – are eggs good or bad for us this week?  That’s one way to look at it.  Suspending judgement, like oil in water, allows scientists to continue observing and gathering data, while continuing their search for the best solution and opportunity.   Staying open-minded would lighten our load vs. carrying judgements and opinions.

3. Keen observer:  Scientists look and listen at information/data.  Never knowing what is most important, everything is considered and noted.  On the simplest level, it’s applying curiosity, watching and listening, for example, to loved ones behavior and actions, without bias.   Improved relationships anyone?

Observing life through a kaleidoscope

Observing life through a kaleidoscope

4. Resourceful:  Scientists look for avenues to explore in unexpected ways.  Have you ever seen some of those projects being funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) or the Federal Government?   For starters, I’m sure if I was a scientist I could get the NSF to fund my training for developing these characteristics in students!

5. Purposeful:  Scientists (often) believe they can change and improve the world through their research.  We’ll assume it’s not all about money or the plot of a Hollywood sic-fi thriller.  Imagine applying curiosity and resourcefulness to improve the world:  we could be styrofoam free, greenhouse gases would be relegated back to greenhouses, farmers applying the art of fallow could grow pesticide-free crops, and well-written sitcoms would edge out reality TV.  Perhaps we could  achieve world peace.

6. Good communicator:  While scientists are competitive due to funding and Nobel Prizes, they also need to communicate and share information, especially to us, non-scientists.  How is that doctors can’t explain a procedure or an ailment without an interpreter?  Sadly there are a handful of scientists who make it to the small screen and are deemed understandable:  Neil deGrasse Tyson and Carl Sagan to name a few.  As I see it, scientific rules and laws simply and clearly mimic our human nature (shameless plug here for all the posts to come on this blog!).  And while it’s a scientist’s challenge:  science is simple at its core.

7. Persistent:  Scientists don’t give up when proving their passion.   Consistently, they can pursue the same hypothesis for many, many, years, following good scientific protocol changing one variable at a time.  Over time they learn through experimentation, slowly building evidence to prove or disprove their hypothesis.  It’s about  following dreams – logically.  Unlike (me), constantly drenched by chasing rainbows (or butterflies?) muddying my purpose.

Ever notice how all the really cool science stuff is for kids?

Ever notice how all the really cool science stuff is for kids?

8. Creative:  Scientists, through observation and open-mindedness come up with new problems and new ways to problem-solve.   Einstein said it best:  “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  Personally I am victim to old biases and protocols clogging my creativity.  Sadly, the great boxed science experiments on store-shelves and in classrooms all have a set protocol and a ‘right answer’.  Creativity uncovers MANY right answers.

9. Critical Thinker:  Of course to get the most bang from experimental buck, scientists know all about logical analysis. What’s most critical, is remaining emotion-free, a challenge to many of us.  This is problem solving blended with creativity and an exacting methodology, while examining the observed.

10. Courage:  Scientists ‘get’ being laughed at for beliefs and hypothesis (even outside of social situations).  Is the world really round?  Imagine holding strongly to a belief and persistently plotting to prove and accomplish your passion?   REAL courage is all about staying open-minded and living without judgement.

Perhaps what I love most about this list is how ubiquitous these characteristics are for any person interested in a full life.  Including every manager, parent, friend, and human being.  I would be a better person by being a ‘better scientist’.  An exploration I can apply purpose and curiosity to!

Sure, scientists may be ‘different’ than you or me, but it’s not what you have – or even who you are:  It’s all about what you do with the qualities you posses!.

Awakening from Winter’s Fallow

6 Mar

 

It happens every year.  Days warm, skies lighten, promising winter’s end, taunting us to remember bursts of color awakening as each day expands, exhaling a few more minutes of sunshine.

Nature is stirring from winter’s fallow, about to transform spindly fragile limbs into pillars of ‘the community’, hosting playful squirrels and hungry bugs.  Like so many miracles, we just can’t see it yet.

We need a reminder that grass needs to rest in Brooklyn's Prospect Park

We need a reminder that grass needs to rest in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park

A tree's naked identity without hiding behind her springtime green finery!

A tree’s naked identity without hiding behind her springtime green finery!

I pass trees exposed.  I call it their ‘naked identity’ or who they are without any accoutrements or embellishments.  To my naked eye, they’re still caught in the ‘dead of winter’:  which is nothing about death.

  It’s my reminder for these next few weeks: nothing is what it seems.

Is there a who hiding/hanging in this tree?  It's true, you just never know....

Is there a who hiding/hanging in this tree? It’s true, you just never know….

Nature’s tall warriors, trees, deserve fallow or recovery time.  Imagine what a grand – but exhausting – time they have all spring and summer, courting pollinators, hosting scavengers, nesting predators and protecting prey while offering shade and a respite to the sun-weary.

Most notably, effortlessly and symbiotically, they alchemize oxygen out of our exhaustive carbon-dioxide.

Recovery time is a gift.  Nature as introvert draws strength from within:  it’s taking off make-up and burrowing in sweats after a period of intense socializing.  Down time is about self-care, and regenerating resources to do it all again with gusto.

Trees stay rooted no matter what.  It's a gift of survival and one i'd like to master!

Trees stay rooted no matter what. It’s a gift of survival and one i’d like to master!

Unlike a text, nature is doesn’t appear or change instantaneously.   Cells don’t update at fios speed.  Creating something new and life affirming takes time to process, plan, and put it all together.

This hibernation time for trees is one of gentle activity, incubating new life, waiting to receive the message that it’s ‘show time’ again.  Because spring can’t do it alone – those blooms about to burst, are not a solo act.  It’s about teamwork.  Preparations begin with the decomposition crews ‘hired’ in the fall to sort out last year’s bounty.

Nature is an ingenious economy, recycling and reusing discarded material with full employment:    Everyone’s got a role, a niche, a job.  

Even the Bryant Park Carousel takes a rest!

Even the Bryant Park Carousel takes a rest!

Of course it’s all about the timing.  Spring is a ‘just-in-time’ new beginning promising:

  • The past is no predictor of present/future success,
  • The present is a sign of strength and resilience,
  • Imperfection is not failure.

And that dark, meaningless void beneath the surface is opportunity.

One of the many reasons I love spring…

Back to trees and their nakedness.  We all have – no we all NEED – times of fallow, when we feel we’ve exhausted our value, energy, strength, and ability to contribute.  Sometimes we need to just be while  flaunting our naked (true) identity.  Just be sure to dress before you leave the house!

There’s great value in rest.  And doesn’t all of livingkind need that?

How do you regenerate and build up strength?

A sign of the miracles to come:  a musician warming up to spring

A sign of the miracles to come: a musician warming up to spring