How Teddy Ruxpin Subliminally Taught Me the Generation Y Trait of Being Motivated By Happiness, Not Money

Whether you are motivated more by wealth or happiness, it’s still a pursuit.  No guarantees for either one.

Maybe Teddy Ruxpin is the reason why today I prefer vests over neckties. Back in the Eighties, all my friends would put their fingers and pencils and crayons in their Teddy Ruxpin doll’s mouth when he talked- but my mom wouldn’t let me do that to mine because she said it would mess up his mouth. She was right. My Teddy Ruxpin worked fine for years and years after my friends’ Teddy Ruxpins ultimately broke down for good. Since Kindergarten (1986) I have been having brief flashbacks of this live-action puppet after-school special of The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin I saw once where he and Grubby fly in an airship to find a hidden treasure and get captured by mud people.

Recently, some hero posted the one hour made-for-TV movie on YouTube. I watched it all the way through. Teddy Ruxpin and his friends discover a room full of golden treasures but choose instead to take only these crystal necklaces with words like “truth”, “honesty”, and “bravery” on them. Because “these things are the real treasures”. Right. Of course.  Then the bad guys take the real treasure (gold), but because their attitudes were wrong, the tresure vanishes into thin air once they touch it.

Golden treasures are typically a let-down in movies and TV shows, for the most part at least. From what I remember about most “treasure hunt” movies, the heroes ends up choosing some kind of abstract moral principle over the actual golden treasure, which is actually a trap or illusion for the villain. The only semi-exception I know of is the movie Without a Paddle. They get the moral treasure (which in this case was “life itself”) and also $100,000 cash, which the two richer friends give to the poorer friend.

Usually I am pretty quick to pick up on recycled plots, but it’s taken me until just recently to realize this one about “the real treasure”.  Interestingly, in my research about Generation Y (people born from 1982 and 2001), I learned that one of their main characteristics is that “being happy” is their main motivational drive, not money or wealth, as is the case with many of the older generations.  I would have to believe it was this common “love/life/joy is better than gold” theme in entertainment during the Eighties and Nineties that has something to do with the way Generation Y is wired.  Though I was born in 1981, I was still born close enough to the generational switch that I admit my main motivation in life is happiness, not material wealth.  And maybe that’s dangerous- because for some people, finding financial success could actually be easier than finding perceived happiness.

“The mind is its own place, and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.”  –John Milton

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My Favorite Facebook Trend of 2010: Getting People to “Like” Your Fan Page

Getting “liked” on facebook is always authentic, right?  I guess I should just ask all 800 of my authentic facebook “friends”.

One of the popular online trends of 2010 has been to try to convince/bribe people on facebook to “like” your fan page.  I hope it’s okay to think that concept is hilarious, because it cracks me up every time.  Sure, having thousands of people “like” Conan O’Brien’s fan page on facebook had to have helped him, but the difference with him was that he nor his crew had anything to do with it.  True fans began and empowered the Coco movement on their own.  But I know that all entertainment and business entrepreneurs are being told by the experts to get people to “like” them on facebook and think up clever sayings for Twitter because this is the age of networking and doing those things helps ensure prosperity or at least survival.  And they’re probably right.

But still, it reminds me of being in the 1st grade and some kid you barely know asks for your slice of pizza during lunch and attaches this promise to his request: “I’ll be your best friend…”  As a young child, even then I always knew there was no authenticity there.  But then again, we are all well aware that at least a quarter of our facebook friends are not actually our friends- in fact, I have no clue who a quarter of them even are, and I bet they would say the same thing about me.

I’m currently (and slowly) reading a book called Microtrends, which explains the power of 1 percent of the population liking anything.  In the introduction of the book, author Mark J. Penn explains, “By the time a trend hits 1 percent, it is ready to spawn a hit movie, best-selling book, or new political movement.” According to the book, that 1 percent of the American population he is referring to literally means 300,000 people; not even a third of a million people.  In essence, the idea behind being “liked” on facebook is an effort to show the marketing executives that one’s cause has a following close to or reaching 300,000 people.

I’m all about other people being successful and even helping them to get there in big meaningful ways, but being asked to be “like” anything ultimately just reminds me of the fact that if everyone was rich, that no one would actually be rich- in the same way, only a limited amount of people can be famous.  And if you try to manipulate the true Invisible Hand of Coolness and Popularity in a room full of thousands of other people also metaphorically yelling to each other, “Hey, look at me!”, the noise just cancels out most of the room, while the actual trend leaders are in a different room down the hall.

I would rather know that a person authentically “likes” me, not by creating my own fan page and asking people to publicly acknowledge my awesomeness in a predictable facebook gesture.  But then again, I’m not cool enough to think up clever Twitter posts either.  I’m so out of touch- I’m such a bitter, old, stubborn man.  Now get off my property!

Why Money is Funny, Honey

The numbers are real… only because we believe in them.

Antique dealers and E-Bay auctioneers are quite familiar with the fact that the value of an item is simply based on what a person is willing to pay for it. It had to have been confusing when the Native American Indians learned of the Europeans’ obsession with gold, which to them was just another type of metal. There was nothing special about it. But because gold still has value in our economy, we can relate to our European ancestors. Not only have we been trained to associate gold with prosperity, but gold literally does equal monetary wealth.

If only ancient civilization decided that dinosaur fossils should have been the currency, we would put our faith in a completely different rare, inanimate object. It is truly eye-opening, amazing, and disappointing to realize that money itself is simply just a touchable version of the invisible system set in place. Money isn’t real. Our government can print millions more in a just a few minutes, when they choose to. Our faith in the system is what gives money its worth.

A dollar is worth a dollar because we believe it. Same thing with a million. And while each decade inflation alters the value to a degree, we keep enough faith for the system to stay legitimate.

What made this “invisible money” concept even more real for me is when I got a debit card a few years ago. No longer having to go to the bank every Friday during my lunch break to withdraw cash, I could just simply swipe my card to make a purchase, then later check online to see the numbers get a little smaller. The Numbers.

Money is invisible numbers. But while money isn’t real, these numbers still completely affect our lifestyles. So they are real.

Faith makes an invisible economy real.

Big Hands: For You to Be Rich, It Means Someone Else Must Be Poor

In 1992 I was in 5th grade and it was in my reading class that I learned so much of the way I see economics. I remember reading this story about a boy who wished for all the money in the world. He got his wish. His entire house became completely full of cash. More money than he could ever spend. It was wonderful. But not for long. He realized that he literally had all the money in the world. That meant that no one else had any, which kinda took the fun out of the whole thing.

The most education I can really claim to have regarding finances is a micro-economics and a macro-economics class my first year of college and completing Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace program a few months ago. I don’t claim to really know much about how money really works. But here is an interesting qustion: If every person in the world had the exact same financial status, how much would everyone have? Financially speaking, which country would we all be most comparable to?

I looked up the GDP (Gross Domestic Product- indicates the size of a country’s economy) for all 191 listed countries in the world. The midway point on the list was Albania, with a GDP of $5,600. The USA was #6 on the list with $43,500. I did the math. Americans are 7.6 times richer than Albanians. We have over 7 and a half times more of everything than we should have, based on my simple ballpark math.

So in my 5th grade reading class I indirectly learned that in order to be rich, to some degree, we have to get more than our share. Because if everybody was rich, then nobody would really be rich. It’s mathematically impossible. Just like not everybody can be famous.

What’s funny to me is, so many people that I know that everybody else thinks are rich, are actually just as worried about money as everybody else. The more money a person makes, the bigger their house gets. The newer their car gets.  It doesn’t end.

I think it’s easy to tend not to take the 10th Commandment as seriously as the rest of the Commandments. “Do not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor”. It seems kind of petty at first. But not when I think about it- and realize where that can get a person, or a country.

pac man