John Tenney

Professional and Personal Blog of John Will Tenney

Archives July 2012

John Tenney on his mountain bike in a time trial

The Positive Power of Exercise

John Tenney on his mountain bike in a time trialToday’s ride was not starting out well. At 4pm I laid down for a much needed nap, having a headache, shaking a bit and other symptoms which I can only describe as “flu-like” – you all know that feverish feeling.

At 5pm, not really having slept at all I got up and gradually began to “assemble my cycling ensemble.” Yes it’s an ensemble. What with the special reinforced shorts, cycling jersey, special socks, shoes, gloves, helmet and of course the all important digital watch with heart rate on it, yes it is quite a preparation.

Left the house at 5:25 armed with some special concoction in my “Clean Bottle” designed to replenish lost energy and reduce lactic acid build up in the legs, which I got from Nutrishop Orlando in Waterford Commons. Also had a second bottle of good old filtered water from the fridge.

I felt awful as I started pedaling down the street. Felt slightly better as I turned on to Waterford Chase Parkway. Started feeling pretty good on Avalon Park Blvd, and whaddya know, actually starting doing 20+ mph as I came in to Avalon trying to beat an approaching rain shower to the YMCA.

The next couple of hours were great. I rode a total of 39 miles, all in about 2 hrs 21 minutes. I pushed it through our time trial route and beat my best time by almost a minute. Here’s a SportyPal profile of the ride.

Had to rush home because I was running out of daylight, and gave the wife a bit of a scare because I apparently couldn’t hear the phone ringing in the back pocket of the jersey I was wearing.

Had a nice dinner and drank four full bottles of water! The flu symptoms are gone, and I feel great :) There is healing power in going out and putting your body in motion.

Feeling lousy? Try a little exercise :)

Luck does not exist

“You’re So Lucky”

Luck does not exist“You’re So Lucky”

Do you hear this when people see something that is part of your life, or someone’s life, that they wish was part of theirs? It’s a common expression but think about it, by saying that to someone what are you saying? I suppose on the surface it says “I wish I had your lifestyle.” Let’s dig deeper though, what does it really say? Perhaps the intent of saying “You are lucky” could be translated as “I made just as good life choices as you but somehow you got a better outcome.” Is that closer to the truth?

I have now been alive 54 years. I can’t say I ever saw anyone that was truly “Lucky”. It’s been said that “Luck is when preparation and opportunity come together.”

I’ve definitely seen people who were more prepared when opportunity came along. I’ve also seen people recover from situations you would call “bad luck.”

May I share a personal example? On September 10, 2011 I was a Boeing 737 First Officer for Midway Airlines. On September 12th, we all received emails telling us that the airline was shutting down, “good luck.”

“Fortunately” (“Lucky for me!”) I had a second job. I was working part time as a consultant for a local charter company. I went to work there full time. Now really, was this luck? Or was this being prepared?

Obviously, no one could be prepared for the devastation caused by the terrorist attacks of 9-11-2001. The nation was in deep shock. I never expected the charter job to become full time.

Continuing on with this story, it quickly became apparent that the charter job was a dead end. The future I desired was not going to come from there. At first, I tried to change it. I made several attempts to grow the company, many of them successful, but it was privately held, and I knew the owners would never really share the equity I was creating with me to the extent I wanted.

This was made glaringly apparent when I solicited, researched, arranged and closed a large charter deal that netted the company $30,000. I asked for a $5,000 commission. The answer I got was a shocked expression and an exclaimed “Five Thousand? Are you crazy? We can’t pay you that much. We can give you Five Hundred maybe …”

I started to chalk it off to “bad luck” but stopped myself. I learned the lesson. I needed to change my outlook if I wanted to change my life.

That was also the sign that I needed to build my own business, and take control of my own financial future. I began to form the Tenney’s Rules of Financial Security. The rules grow as life goes on but here are the Thirteen Rules About Luck.

Rule 1: Good Luck is When Preparation and Opportunity Meet
From this point on I was determined to be prepared.

Rule 2: If You Want To Change Your Life, You Have To Change Your Life
or “if you want to change some things in your life you need to change some things in your life.” Another corollary: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.” The gist of this rule is there are risks to be taken, and changes to be made to achieve better results.

Rule 3: Nobody Else Will Look Out For You As Well As You Do
Translation: If you aren’t in control of the money, you won’t get it. Sadly I had to have two incidents like the one above to make this point. This also leads to the next rule:

Rule 4: If You Don’t Control It, Then You Don’t Really Own It
That’s important. I remember being told as a multi-level distributor that I “owned my own business.” I can see the fallacy in this now. I had only one supplier, inflexible pricing and no options. In short, I was on my own with no control over what I could sell or how much to sell it for. I had “rules” to follow which basically prevented me from getting any position or advantage over any other distributor. There was no compelling reason to do business with me. This, among many others, is a reason I do not like multi-level businesses.

Another thing people think they “own” but they really don’t: real property. If you think you own your home now that you’ve paid your mortgage think again. Just try missing your property taxes for a few months and you will find out who really owns your home. This was another good lesson that led to the next rule:

Rule 5: Equity In A Home Is Mostly Worthless
The mortgage bankers are now screaming “heresy! blasphemy!” but this is true. Unless you have a home equity line of credit (HELOC) that is unilaterally irrevocable equity in your home is not going to help you at all when you really need it. Think about it. You get disabled, lose your job but you have all this “equity” in your home. Just take out a loan and live on that until things improve right? Hmmm, nice plan but I never met a banker who would lend you money unless you really didn’t need it. Even on equity loans they want to see income, and income that is capable of repaying the loan in a timely fashion. So don’t count on home equity as a “security blanket” – it isn’t!

Rule 6: There Are Friends In Business, But Only So Far …
I have done my best to surround myself with people I like and trust in business, but I always remember that even friendship will wither when times get hard. This is not cynical, it’s just fact. When it comes down to a person feeding their family, friendships have to take second place. So the next few rules apply to this rule.

Rule 7: Get It In Writing, Signed, Dated and Maybe Even Notarized
I had a lawyer tell me once that his primary source of income was other people’s failure to prepare written documents. While he enjoyed working for people who got everything in writing, he had to admit that the lion’s share of his fees were from resolving disputes between people that did not have written agreements or contracts. It may seem silly at the time but 10 years from now that contract is going to mean everything to you. Get it in writing.

Rule 8: To Keep Your Friends in Business, Give Them Something to Lose
Keep it equitable. If your friends are gaining as much from you financially as you are from them, the friendship will not be as strained when times get tough.

Rule 9: Always Get an IOU for Everything You Do
This is actually a rule by David Sandler, but I’ve said it enough that it’s been adopted in to the Tenney Rule Book. I’ve taken expressions such as “don’t worry about it” or “no big deal” out of my vocabulary. Instead I say things like “I’m sure if situations were reversed you would do the same for me” or similarly if I know them well “you owe me one.” People keep score. You know they do. All we are doing is helping them remember the score. Conversely, if someone does something above and beyond for me I remember it.

Rule 10: Become a “Trusted Adviser”
This is also from David Sandler. A trusted adviser is someone who would never knowingly give you bad information or attempt to mislead you. This also involves being an expert at something. I’m not suggesting you give away “free consulting” but if it is in your best interest to advise something, then do it well and with their future in mind.

Rule 11: Your Time is Your Most Valuable Asset
You can always make more money. It is impossible to make more time. Use your time wisely and use it the way you decide. Once I learned to stop letting other people control my time, my lifestyle became much better.

Rule 12: You Can’t Enjoy Life Without Good Health
The most important thing you can control, other than your time, is your health. You can’t be a good steward of your life if you are sick or unhealthy. You will also enjoy your life much more if you are in good shape. There is nothing more important than this, nothing! You may think spouse, family and things like that come before health but they don’t. Believe me, your spouse, family and friends would rather have you healthy and taking care of yourself than otherwise.

Rule 13: There Is No Such Thing As Luck
There really isn’t a rule 13 but I couldn’t have a story about luck without the number 13 in it could I?

That’s enough for now. There are other rules, corollaries, guidelines and watch words that are important but this is a good start. Someday I will publish the complete Tenney Rulebook, but until then I plan to enjoy my time, my success and my lifestyle.

I guess I’m just lucky :)

Unemployment and what it really means

What Does the Unemployment Figure Really Mean?

Unemployment and what it really meansYears ago, unemployment figures were calculated using the number of people that applied for unemployment benefits.

Somewhere along the line that process changed.  Those figures are ignored by every government entity I have been able to contact.

In fact, everyone I spoke to uses a survey to determine unemployment.  Here is an excerpt from an answer to my request from Workforce Florida:

“Where do the statistics come from?
Early each month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the U.S. Department of Labor announces the total number of employed and unemployed persons in the United States for the previous month, along with many characteristics of such persons. These figures, particularly the unemployment rate—which tells you the percent of the labor force that is unemployed—receive wide coverage in the media.

Some people think that to get these figures on unemployment, the Government uses the number of persons filing claims for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits under State or Federal Government programs. But some people are still jobless when their benefits run out, and many more are not eligible at all or delay or never apply for benefits. So, quite clearly, UI information cannot be used as a source for complete information on the number of unemployed.

Other people think that the Government counts every unemployed person each month. To do this, every home in the country would have to be contacted—just as in the population census every 10 years. This procedure would cost way too much and take far too long. Besides, people would soon grow tired of having a census taker come to their homes every month, year after year, to ask about job-related activities.

Because unemployment insurance records relate only to persons who have applied for such benefits, and since it is impractical to actually count every unemployed person each month, the Government conducts a monthly sample survey called the Current Population Survey (CPS) to measure the extent of unemployment in the country. The CPS has been conducted in the United States every month since 1940, when it began as a Work Projects Administration project. It has been expanded and modified several times since then. For instance, beginning in 1994, the CPS estimates reflect the results of a major redesign of the survey. (For more information on the CPS redesign, see Chapter 1, “Labor Force Data Derived from the Current Population Survey,” in the BLS Handbook of Methods.) “

Clearly this survey is of a controversial nature.  The US Gov’t surveys a list of 60,000 homes and asks the following questions:

  1. How many people are capable of work in this household?
  2. How many are either unemployed or actively seeking better employment?

The bold section has been added recently, as the surveyors felt that “under-employed” people should be counted in the survey as unemployed.  I have a problem with that.  How many people out there are looking for a better job?  You see what I mean.

They take these numbers and estimate the total number of unemployed people in the area surveyed (this is done in Florida and Orange County for example) and divide that by the estimated workforce population (another very controversial number) to arrive at the unemployment rate.

As you can see, there is so much wiggle room in all these numbers that someone could manipulate figures to come up with whatever number they really desire.

This figure doesn’t take in to effect the “voluntarily remaining unemployed” sector either.  These are people that are receiving unemployment benefits but not accepting jobs that pay less than or equal to the benefits.  We know of others who are being paid through a personal corporation so they can stay legally unemployed and collect benefits.  This is of course a very difficult number to determine but it has to be taken in to account.

The bottom line?  Next time you hear someone complaining about the “high unemployment rate” please consider their reasons for doing so.  It is very possible that the true unemployment levels are much lower than being advertised.

John Will Tenney is the lead property and casualty agent for PEO Pros / PAY-surance HR, an employers insurance agency in Orlando, FL.

Information for this article was taken from Wikipedia, Workforce Florida, and US Government websites.