Thursday, December 20, 2007

This Blog Has a New Home:

The time has finally come for me to move my blog. Please come on over with me. Don't forget to change your links and RSS feeds. Here's the new address:

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Create and Maintain a Budget Using Wesabe

For the past several months my wife and I have been using the free, easy-to-use, web-based software called Wesabe. Many of you have been asking me about it lately so I decided to give a brief overview of what it is and why I like it.

First, I'm a firm believer in the importance of spending your money intentionally, rather than being surprised by your purchases at the end of each month. In order to do this a detailed budget must not only be created, it must be constantly maintained. There are many different programs out there to help you in this endeavor like Quicken and MS Money, but Wesabe is free and it adds the community element which I'll explain later. Before I forget, here's the link to a quick 3-minute video tour of Wesabe if you're more of a visual learner: VIDEO TOUR

Some of the highlights of Wesabe:

All Your Accounts in One Place - Wesabe is nice because it allows you to view all of your bank and credit card accounts in one place making it easy to budget, categorize and view all of your spending rather than having to skip from site to site.

Creating Spending Categories - When you first upload an account (checking, savings,
credit card, etc.) with Wesabe it displays the transaction exactly like it reads on your financial statement, often meaning pointless numbers and codes with no relevance to you. Wesabe then allows you to edit the transactions individually changing the bank code into something you can use like, "McDonald's" or "Apple Store". What makes Wesabe great is that from that point on it will recognize if a similar transaction comes though and will assign it the name you chose automatically; meaning, if you receive a paycheck on the 1st and 15th of each month from the same place Wesabe will recognize this and call the transaction "Paycheck" (or whatever you assign).

Also, as part of the editing process Wesabe enables you to "tag" each transaction, putting it in a specific category like "Restaurant" or "Entertainment." This ability to create spending categories is obviously key in creating and maintaining a detailed budget. The tag process also "learns" as you use Wesabe more, automatically assigning repeat transactions the right tag. For example, if you go to Chili's every week you will only have to assign the first transaction a name and tag, after that it will do this for you as it recognizes the same purchase item or place.

Creating Spending Limits - Another handy tool Wesabe offers its users is the ability to create spending limits. Users can assign each "tag" or spending category a certain spending limit for the month and Wesabe automatically keeps track of where you are as you make your purchases. If you set a "Restaurant" limit of $150 for the month, Wesabe will let you know that you only have $50 left for the month if you go out one night and spend $100 on a meal. This is probably my favorite feature as it eliminates the guessing of where you are at any given point in time in regards to your budget...helping you spend intentionally

The Community Element: Tips and Goals - Wesabe is unique from traditional budgeting software in that it relies on its community of users to provide guidance and tips on how to successfully manage your money. The "Tips" section of Wesabe looks at common themes in your spending and automatically provides user-generated tips specific to you. So, if you're a single-person with no kids you won't be receiving advice on saving money on diapers or budgeting for your kids' college tuition.

The community also comes into play in the "Goals" section of Wesabe, a place where you can create and monitor your personal financial goals. The wife and I currently have goals including buying our first house and maximizing our yearly Roth IRA contributions. Wesabe allows you to connect with other users with the same goals giving you an opportunity to discuss, share and learn.

Overall, we've been very pleased with Wesabe. Every once and a while it mis-tags a purchase, but that is rare and easy to fix. The only other problem we ran into was having one transaction come up twice in "Bills" and "Payments"...we fixed this using the filter feature, filtering out the "Payments" from our spending and earning summaries. Finally, many have questioned the security aspect of uploading financial accounts onto the web...understandable, but Wesabe takes security just as seriously as any of your financial institutions that you bank with daily. Check out there security policies here:

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Saturday, December 8, 2007

Who is Ron Paul?

If you are like me you are watching the presidential election like you watch a round of golf on tv, checking out the leader board from time to time, but mainly just using it as some good background noise for a Sunday afternoon nap. I thought I knew what was going on for the most part until I started seeing the name Ron Paul everywhere on the Internet. I am still trying to figure this guy out, but if you would like to know more as well here is his "Issues" page from his official website explaining what he believes. Enjoy! Vote!

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Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Dollar is Falling....Big Deal

Tyler Cowen, author of Discover Your Inner Economist: Use Incentives to Fall in Love, Survive Your Next Meeting, and Motivate Your Dentist, wrote a great piece in the New York Times a few days ago entitled, "The Dollar is Falling, and That's Good," about the current hullabaloo regarding the falling value of the greenback. Its been in the news a ton lately and financial sages like Buffett have been warning about the precarious position a devalued dollar puts us in with countries like China holding so much of our debt in their hands. I admit, I've had mixed feelings about the real impact of a falling dollar wondering often, "Is this really something I need to be worrying about?" Cowen puts things in perspective:

ANXIETY about the dollar continues to spread. The falling greenback is often seen as a sign of an impending recession or the fall of the United States from global leadership. A low dollar simply looks bad. We are, after all, used to judging ourselves against others — comparing our salaries with the earnings of our peers, and our homes with those of our neighbors. We’re used to thinking it is a big advantage to stand at the top of a numerical list.

But when it comes to currencies, a higher value neither brings national success nor predicts future prosperity. The measure of a nation’s wealth is the goods and services it produces, not the relative standing of its currency. Take a look at 1985-88, when the dollar lost more ground than in the last few years. Those were good times, and the next decade was largely prosperous as well.

Today’s lower value for the dollar reflects the success of other regions. Europe has shown it can make the European Union and its unified currency work, and thus the euro has become stronger. The Canadian union appears increasingly stable, and that means a higher value for the Canadian dollar. Over all, these geopolitical developments are good for America even if the dollar becomes weaker in relative terms.

As to the concern that China could lay the wood to America by dumping the dollar:

Another worry is that a falling dollar puts the United States at the mercy of China. Dr. Brad Setser, a currency analyst at RGE Monitor, estimates that the Chinese hold about $1.2 trillion in dollar-denominated assets. China is likely to slowly diversify into other currencies, but Chinese leaders have no interest in encouraging a run on the dollar or a fire sale of dollar-denominated assets. China is in a more vulnerable position than the United States, if only because China is a poorer country and has underdeveloped capital markets.

Cowen concludes that all of the people claiming the sky is falling need to relax:

Still, it would be naïve to argue that a weak or falling dollar can never hurt the United States. Extreme volatility can increase general anxiety and discourage economic commitments. If the dollar went into a true free fall, it would damage the reputation of the United States as a desirable place for foreigners to invest. That would hurt; but on the other hand a low dollar would mean bargains for foreigners, thereby attracting investment and limiting the potential negative fallout from a dollar collapse.

SO far the Federal Reserve and the Bush administration have shown little concern over the falling dollar. This isn’t because of neglect or lack of interest; trillions of dollars worth of currency are traded every day, so policy makers have only a limited ability to push around long-term exchange rates, even if they wanted to do so.

When it comes to market prices, people can always find reason to be unhappy. In the eurozone, for example, it is a common complaint that the euro is too strong and therefore it is too difficult for Europeans to export goods and services.

In the case of the dollar, we need to stop thinking of its value as a marker of economic success. The American economy has its problems, but so far the low value of the dollar has proved more a benefit than a cost.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Weak Ties Experiment: Ben and Ramit

And now in the spirit of learning and discovery I offer this experiment to help prove the power of weak ties. I am going to send my "Creating and Cultivating 'Weak Ties,'" post to two of my favorite bloggers, Ben Casnocha, author of My Start-Up Life: What a (Very) Young CEO Learned on His Journey Through Silicon Valley and Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You to Be Rich

I have a weak tie with Ben through Paul Berberian, a former USAFA grad who came back frequently to speak to our Management classes. It was through Paul that I learned about Ben's blog which I follow avidly. Ramit I know only through his blog. I suppose both of these are "weak" weak ties since they are one-sided, but we'll go with it for the sake of the experiment. Anyway, at this time I get on average 10-15 readers a day on my blog. My hypothesis is if I can get Ben and Ramit to link to my article either by a direct mention in their blog, delicious link, or some other means, my traffic will double for at least 3 days after their link is published simply due to the access I will receive to their blog audience. In doing so my life will be improved by more blog traffic, exposure, etc. and I will have cultivated a weak tie that could be of value in the future. Will let you know how this one turns out!

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Creating and Cultivating "Weak Ties"

Since I finished pilot training I have had some time for myself to study, think, write and review. One thing I have felt strongly about is going back over some of the books and ideas I found most interesting over the past few years. For example, I read The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcom Gladwell a while back, but if someone asked me to summarize the ideas today, I would be limited to the subtitle, "How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, " and a few smatterings from the book on Mavens and broken-window theory...not exactly high quality or usable I'm reviewing in order to be able to actually use and apply Gladwell's ideas rather than just recalling how interesting they were at the time.

One of my favorite sections of the book involves the Law of the Few where Gladwell lays out the 3 types of people necessary to start a social epidemic: Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen. Connectors fascinate me because I relate to them the most. Connectors, in Gladwell's words are, "people with a special gift for bringing the world together." Connectors know lots of people, naturally, and, "for one reason or another, they manage to occupy many different worlds and subcultures and niches." For me the most important aspect of connectors is their gift of creating and cultivating what sociologists call a "'weak tie,' a friendly yet casual social connection."

It is my opinion that weak ties are an invaluable source of social capital one must cultivate if he or she has any chance at success. More from Gladwell:

In his classic 1974 study Getting a Job, Granovetter looked at several hundred professional and technical workers from the Boston suburb of Newton, interviewing them in some detail on their employment history. He found that 56 percent of those he talked to found their job through a personal connection. Another 18.8 percent used formal means...This much is not surprising; the best way to get in the door is through a personal contact. But, curiously, Granovetter found that those personal connections, the majority were "weak ties." Of those who used a contact to find a job, only 16.7 percent saw that contact "often"...People weren't getting their jobs through their friends. They were getting them through their acquaintances.

In short we don't rely on friends when it comes to new jobs, new information or new opportunities because in large part, they occupy a world very similar to ours. Weak ties are incredibly important for the simple fact that they are generally connections to a world outside of our own, a diverse form of social capital allowing us access into places we normally could not go. In a world of globalization geography is becoming less important and relationships are becoming more important. As the pool of high-skilled workers increases (aka China and India) who you know will become a key way to differentiate yourself from the other thousand people with similar resumes, making the number of your weak ties a valuable asset in determining your success in business and in life. Knowing the importance of weak ties, here are some ways to get better at creating and cultivating them:

1) Meet more people - go to church, attend art shows, join a book club. Expose yourself to various degrees of social randomness, groups and people that you would normally not associate with, people outside your normal social circle. Remember, you are not looking for a new best friend, only casual friendly connections. If your normal Friday night routine involves staying at home and watching a movie in your sweat pants, mix it up a bit and go out every other week. Extra tip: people tend to connect more easily if they are holding a beverage in their seems to create a small barrier making people more comfortable when conversing.

2) Organize your contacts - meeting mass amounts of people will do you no good if you do not come up with some sort of system to remember them. LinkedIn is a very useful online tool I just joined. They help you track down old classmates and colleagues, create connections, organize and maintain detailed contact information. Obviously there are a million social networking options today from MySpace to Facebook to Twitter...use them all. Also, most smart phones today have great contact systems as well, utilize them and keep them updated.

3) Weak tie, not dead tie - Find a way of keeping the ties alive over the years. For example, Mr. Horchow, a connector Gladwell studied in Tipping Point would keep track of his contacts birthdays and send them a birthday card. This seems easy enough you might say...Horchow had a contact list on his computer of over 1,600 names! Maybe this isn't your style, but find something even if it is only a yearly e-mail updating them on your life, or a Christmas card, whatever you have to do to keep the tie healthy enough that when you call on that person for a favor sometime down the road they don't respond with, "who did you say you were again?"

4) The magic of remembering a name - We all know how good it makes you feel when someone you only met once remembers your name....become that person. I heard a story once of a Wing Commander at an Air Force base in North Dakota that memorized the names of every single airmen under his command...and their spouses! We're talking thousands of names people! He obviously had come up with a system, placing a name with a fact about the person, reviewing photos, something. Whatever he did, his ability to know his subordinates' names made an incredible impact. The moral was very high and every airmen wanted to work hard for the Commander because they felt like he cared. If you can learn to remember people's names it will make you a person people want to remember.

Go forth people and establish your weak ties! Comment with your ideas, systems and thoughts.

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Sunday, December 2, 2007

My Best Books of 2007

Its about that time again when much of the media will be focused on creating their year-in-review pieces. Like my blogging friend, Ben Casnocha, I love "Best of" lists. So, without further attempts to write for the sake of hearing my fingers hit the keys, here is a list of my favorite books I read in 2007:

Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England by Lynne Olson

My latest read, a story about the band of young MP's in Britain that broke party ties on the eve of WWII in order to topple the Chamberlain-led appeasement government and make way for Winston Churchill. Starts out a bit slow, but gains rapidly after the first 6 chapters. Incredible insight into the internal struggles many of the young politicians faced in going against their party and standing for what they believed was England's only chance at survival, all-out war against Nazism. The book raises interesting questions concerning loyalty, party politics, the role of the press and leadership. Lynne Olson has made great tale in describing the behind the scenes workings of a few that helped change the world for so many.

Bobos In Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There by David Brooks

Go to any college campus, resort town, or urban-chic hotspot in America today and David Brooks' "Bobos In Paradise," could act as an incredibly detailed and relevant tour guide. Everyone knows a Bobo whether they realize it or fact they may be one themselves, though they would never admit it. After reading this book I realized that I am in fact a Bobo. Brooks cracked the code for me on things I had always noticed, but never been able to put into words regarding the new class of society forming in America; the exotic coffee drinking, urban outfitter/anthropologie wearing, mutual fund owning, I go climb Himalayan ranges barefoot and drink yak's milk tea with the sherpas over Spring Break for fun because all the "tourists" stay in Kathmandu, class of society. The people that will not like this book are the ones that take themselves way too seriously...most likely because they are probably Bobos too, but too proud to admit it. Entertaining to say the least!

Londonistan by Melanie Phillips

Shocking commentary on the rise of radical Islam in London. Finally, someone who is not afraid to call a spade a spade. Melanie Phillips should be commended for her courage and tenacity in tackling head on an ideology that is seldom confronted out of fear of being labeled "intolerant." Ideologies of hate simply cannot coexist with freedom. "Londonistan" shows the front lines of a culture war that has been brewing for centuries and is nearing its critical mass. This book should sound as a warning for every American, highlighting the consequences of appeasement and the philosophy of moral and cultural relativism. Prepare to walk away angry and shocked.

The Brothers Karamazov (Everyman's Library) by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Not much to say on this book, its a classic for a reason. Dostoevsky has an amazing ability to take characters and make them your friend, brother, father, etc. The story of a Russian family and their struggles for power, money and blood. Some of the greatest writing I have ever experienced. Examines nearly every big philosophical question: meaining, purpose, good, evil, God, man. If you read one classic, read this.

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Taleb

Most predictions are flat out wrong, just listen to any "expert" on CNBC give a prediction of where the market is headed on a given day. Yet, we love predictions because they help us feel like we understand what's going on around us much better than we actually do...the idea of randomness is uncomfortable. The reason our prophecies fall so short is our lack of understanding of the Black Swan and its impact on both history and the future. The Black Swan as Taleb describes it is:
1) an outlier 2) carries extreme impact 3) produces explanations only after the fact.

The bulk of Taleb's book explains in great detail, clarity, and wit the error most humans make in failing to account for the Black Swan in their thinking. He explores various theories ranging from our eagerness to interpret the "causes" in history (confirmation bias, narrative fallacy, etc.) to our inabilities to predict the future (the expert problem, herding and the character of prediction errors).

Finally, Taleb doesn't stop with mere theory; he gives the reader help in how to think in a Black Swan world. His advice, make black swans gray by being aggressive in gaining exposure to positive Black Swans and extremely conservative when under the threat of a negative Black Swan. You're probably reading this right now going, I think I know what he is talking about, but you don't, just read the book and be prepared to have your comfort zone shattered and your mind exercised.

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New Comments Platform: Intense Debate

Readers of Schaefer's Blog,

I have decided to add Intense Debate to the blog as a new way of doing comments. If you haven't signed up for an account I highly recommend it. Intense Debate allows users to track their comments, have one place to save them all no matter what blog they commented on, gain reputations based on the quality of comments, and thread comments together. If you would rather not use this feature simply click cancel and post your comments as you normally would.

I've seen this used on some other blogs I read like BrianReeseBlogs and it makes comments much more dynamic, allowing good content to stand out. Please let me know if you have problems with the new platform or questions. Thanks

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Saturday, December 1, 2007

My Assignment: C-17 McChord AFB

After 13 months of Air Force pilot training, over 200 hours of flight time in the T-6 and T-1, countless 12-hour days, check rides and hundreds of thousands of dollars of jet fuel, I finally found out tonight, at our class' Assignment Night, the plane I will fly for the Air Force: C-17's at McChord AFB in Tacoma, WA. I am incredibly excited and grateful as this was one of my top picks on my dream sheet. Overall our class got great drop with nearly everyone getting their top choice of plane.

The C-17 is an awesome plane, the newest of the Air Force's airlift fleet. It has the most advanced avionics, electronics, capabilities of any of the heavy aircraft. The main feature of the C-17 is its ability to land on small, dirt strips in remote operating areas while carrying up to 170,000 lbs of cargo...oh yeah, and it can stop in approximately 3,000 ft. For more stats and info on the plane check out this page on Wikipedia.

Definitely more to come on my new plane, but just enjoying the moment for now. Thank you to all the taxpayers of America that let me fly around everyday as my job!

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Creating S-M-A-R-T Goals

One of the keys to living well is setting goals for yourself. Its not a new idea, yet so few of us do it well. I think the reason for this is simple: failure. All of us have set goals before and fallen short. Every New Years millions of people resolve to lose weight, watch less television, spend more time with loved ones and by mid-Spring 99% of those goals have gone by the wayside. What's wrong with this picture? Are some people just lazy? Absolutely, but I think many times the problem lies in the goals themselves rather than the people trying to achieve them. When its unclear exactly what you're striving for it is much easier to give up when things get hard.

During my time at the Air Force Academy I once heard a lecture that explained a way to set SMART(Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timebound) goals. The principle was being explained in the context of setting quality objectives at the start of a war, but I believe it translates well into ordinary life. An explanation:

Specific - something that can be easily observed, linked to a unit, percentage, time, etc. For example, "Lose weight" = BAD "Lose 50lbs" = GOOD

Measurable - Will you be able to track your progress toward the goal and know when you've achieved it? It must be possible to monitor and measure your goal. "Lose 50 lbs" is good because you can easily step on a scale each week to measure your progress.

Achievable - Is the goal something that can reasonably be achieved? If not, scale it down a bit. This does not mean it has to be easy, but an impossible goal motivates no one.

Relevant - Will achieving this goal bring you closer to where you want to be? Your goals should tie into a larger objective for your life. For example, if you are trying to spend more time with your family, a goal of taking on more clients at work may take you further from where you want to be.

Timebound - Every goal must have a specific time frame. Time motivates you by giving you a clear target and a sense of urgency. Without a time frame goals tend to be pushed back, put off and eventually forgotten. Ask any runner, if you have a goal to run a marathon, you have to sign up for one or you'll never do it. The approaching race date acts as an incredible motivator during the training process. Without it, you may run, but chances are you'll never reach your ultimate goal.

In the next month I plan on taking a closer look at goals, objectives and how to place systems in your life that will help you live your best, the high life as I like to call it. Stay tuned and please leave comments on your successes and failures in the realm of goal-setting.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

What I Learned From My High School Football Coach

There are times in life when it is good to step back and figure out where you are, how you've gotten there and what you've learned along the way. The past few weeks have been one of those times for me. Upon reflecting on lessons learned the wisdom of my high school football coach, John Deti, kept coming to mind. There are two types of teachers in the world: those whose advice and lessons go in one ear and out the other and those whose words stick with you your entire life. Coach Deti fell into the latter category. It was not the way he spoke or his method of delivery, it was the simplicity of his words and the integrity of the man speaking the words. As his players, we trusted him. These are the lessons he taught us:

1) It's simple, but it's not easy - When you break down a play in football into its most basic parts its really not rocket science. The ball is snapped, the line blocks, the running backs either take the ball and run towards a point in space or block, receivers run routes and the quarterback just gets the ball to where it needs to go. Yet, something happens in the midst of all this: 11 guys on the other side of the ball do their best to ruin all of your plans. The thing about plans is that they're made in a static environment, reality is dynamic, constantly changing. Every decision and move you make has unintended consequences that cannot be conceived beforehand. Life in many ways is a series of plays. Businesses, governments, scientists, etc. all design their own "plays" that seem simple in theory, but then competitors slash prices, Israel bombs Iran, and a new scientific property is discovered...your plans are left in a smoldering heap on the floor. Coach Deti knew that plans are the easy part, actual execution is where the real money is made.

2) It's the little things that matter - Coach Deti was well ahead of Malcolm Gladwell in understanding that the little things in life can make the biggest difference. Drill after drill, practice after practice, this message was ingrained in the mind of every Plainsmen football player. "If you take care of the little things, the big things will take care of themselves," he would remind us as we ran the same play for the 26th time in a row. Everyone wants to score a touchdown, but few people are willing to work out the details required to make it happen. Making a great block just doesn't have the same glamor as catching a pass in the end zone, but the one simply cannot happen with out the other. In life, big dreams are a dime a dozen, but rare is the person who has the discipline and patience to grind it out each day doing the little things well over a long period of time.

3) Nothing is ever as good or bad as it seems - Out of all the sage words spoken by Coach, these have echoed in my mind the most as I've walked through life. We all know those people whose everyday is either the best or worst day of their life. If you do not know anyone like this, its probably you. These people annoy me. Humans are incredibly susceptible to hype, we all fall for it. The car that doesn't quite drive like you imagined it would after watching the commercial; the life-changing promotion that soon turns into nothing more than extra meetings and longer hours.

Going through 4 years at a military academy was one of these, "nothing is ever..." experiences for me. Admittedly, I was nervous going into it, none of my immediate family had been in the military so most of my information was from people who had a friend of a friend whose Uncle Jim went through in '68. "Best four years of my life!" I would hear. "Hardest thing I've ever done!" "I heard they cane the freshmen each morning before breakfast." Well, I made it through the four years. Was it hard? Yes. Was it the best four years of my life? Yes, but for entirely different reasons then I had been expecting. All this to say, our expectations often greatly exaggerate reality so do not rely to heavily on them.

4) Never pass up a free meal - Of all the words spoken by Coach, none seemed so insignificant at the time and made so much sense later. "Never pass up a free meal," he would say to us before an athletic banquet or school function. It was his way of getting a group of rowdy high school boys to go sit through a meal for a few hours with a bunch of adults. I really don't know anyone that enjoys that slice of American high school culture called the, "athletic banquet." Dressing up to go sit on uncomfortable school cafeteria chairs in order to listen to a dozen coaches explain why even though they went 1-10 this year their team was, "a special group of kids." All of this while eating lasagna and jello salad (pot luck favorites) and waiting for your turn, when your coach would call you up and hand you your certificate, shaking your hand and turning toward the crowd for the quick parental photo-op. At times it all seems ridiculous, but the spirit behind the event is what makes it good.

It is often said that nothing in life is free. This is true for the most part, but sometimes people just want to bless you. These opportunities are rare and should not be dismissed too quickly. There is nothing as tacky as when people try to honor someone and they don't show up or are ungrateful. I admit, I didn't like athletic banquets, but I was always thankful for the people that put the time and effort into honoring our hard work. One of the keys to succeeding in life is understanding when to go with the flow, sometimes this means humbling yourself and not passing up the free meal.

5) Things will go wrong, expect it and move on
- Before the start of every game the team would gather around Coach Deti in the locker room as he talked to us. I hesitate to call it a pep-talk because it was something different. He focused us in on where we were and what we were doing. One thing he always told us was that during the course of the game things were going to go wrong. Not exactly what you'd expect a coach to tell his team to motivate them, yet I remember the pressure that those words took off our shoulders as players. It freed us up to play the game to win rather than play not to lose. He didn't expect perfection, he expected his team to play each down to the best of our ability, picking ourselves up and moving on after a mistake.

At the time, I had no idea how true these words would ring out in my personal life. In the Spring of 2003 my mother passed away from cancer. I was finishing my freshman year at the Air Force Academy and came back to Laramie for several days to be with family, friends and attend the funeral. It was decided that Coach Deti would speak at the funeral. You see, John Deti was not only my high school football coach, he is also my godfather. The days surrounding that event seem like a blur when I think back now, except for a few distinct moments. At the funeral, as Coach stood behind the podium to speak, everyone was silent. "Julie was a friend of mine," he paused. I
t was the first time I'd seen this great man visibly shaken, the ripple effect was tremendous. He went on, but to me he had already said everything that needed to be said. Things do indeed go wrong, knowing this doesn't make the "wrongness" any easier, but it frees you up to play the game, to win rather than not to lose. And that is the only way to really live.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Schaefer Thanksgiving 2007

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I love it! Family, friends, food, naps, food, football, is second only to Christmas in my mind. For my wife and I this Thanksgiving will be one of many "firsts." The first Thanksgiving apart from our immediate family, the first Thanksgiving in our own house, the first Thanksgiving with our friends James and Sara and the first Thanksgiving in Enid, OK. It will also be a day of "lasts." The last Thanksgiving in Enid, OK (no offense, Enid is a nice place, but this "last" doesn't cause me too many tears) and most importantly the last Thanksgiving without a kids table. We'll be having a baby girl in January.

There is a special connection in my mind between holidays and family, it has always been there, but with my first child on the way it has transformed a bit. The prospect of being the head of my own family takes things down a new road. My heart really grows when I picture future holidays with MY family. Our kid(s) sitting around the table laughing, taking after their father and not eating any vegetables. Marelize busy being the super-chef that she is. And someday, our kids and their spouses and MY grandchildren all together. In a sense, the Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving. Even the thought of being able to sit at the head of such an incredible imaginary family brings great pride.

I realize that the Rockwell Thanksgiving is an ideal, some may say unrealistic one at that, but to me it represents the best of America and what makes family so unlike any other relationship we experience. It also represents something we should preserve. As I go through life I have noticed time and time again that the family unit is completely unique and indispensable in its ability to produce happy, successful people. When the family unit suffers, the ripple effects are incredible. Family done well is important. To me the Rockwell Thanksgiving is saying one thing, family is good! They may fight, bicker, frustrate you incredibly, but family is good and always worth fighting for. Happy Thanksgiving from the Schaefer's!

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