Why We Need To Exercise Both Sides of Our Brain for Optimal Success

There is a common misconception that most people are either right-brained (creative, intuitive) OR left-brained (logical, analytical). But this isn’t true. We are born with two brain hemispheres. It’s just that our society tends to place a higher value on left-brain skills such as language, logic and math. Unfortunately, this left-brained focus can squash our creative, right-brained attributes and limit our success in life.

Experiments show that most children are highly creative (a right brain function) before entering school. But only ten percent of these same children rank highly creative by age seven. By the time we are adults, high creativity remains in only two percent of the population.

What a shame.

We require BOTH brain functions to optimally succeed. It’s not an either/or thing. Take Albert Einstein for example: most would assume that Einstein was genius because of his left-brained reasoning. However, an examination of his notebooks finds that he credited his greatest scientific insights not to left-brained logic, but to his right-brained creative daydreaming instead.

How can we innovate enough new products or services and create enough new startups to achieve economic expansion if our society, our schools, continue to curb our imagination and punish our daydreaming? Creativity is the fuel that the left-brain needs to power the necessary actions. The right brain gives us the “why” and the left brain gives us the “how.”

Those who cease to daydream can’t see opportunities even when they’re right in front of their nose. You’ve heard me say this before and I’ll repeat it again: Big changes start with a thought, not an action.

Take a look at the following list of brain functions. Can you see how success is limited when only 50% of our brain gets regular exercise?

Left brain functions: Right brain functions:
Logic Emotions, intuition
Forms strategies Presents possibilities
Sees the parts, specifics, details Sees the big picture – relationships among the parts
Breaking apart Putting together
Present and Past Present and Future
Time-bound Time-free
Safety Takes risks
Analytical Creative, Holistic
Numbers, Written language Pictures, Insight
Reasoning Imagination
Scientific skills Awareness
Sequential Simultaneous
Literal Contextual, Pragmatic

Do you dislike your job? Are you feeling stuck in a rut and powerless to do anything about it? Perhaps you know what you want to do but your big but problem gets in your way. Is your logical left side telling you “this will never work”? If so, remember that analysis and judgment (left brain functions) can get in the way of creativity, insight and imagination. That’s why when you brainstorm, it’s crucial that you suspend judgment while generating ideas.

I urge you to join me and re-ignite your imagination. Here are a few ways to give your oft-neglected right hemisphere a little love:

A toast! To our right brains!


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Cash For Clunkers Ends Monday: Here’s Why I’m Keeping My Clunker

Quick and sloppy post here — I have timely news and advice but only 10 minutes to share…

The Cash for Clunkers program ends on Monday, but I won’t be spending my weekend tramping through car dealerships. Here’s why:

  • My clunker is worth more $ now because so many cheap cars have been destroyed. I won’t have any trouble selling it for a nice price, by owner, later.
  • It’s no deal to buy a brand new car … then pay for the instant depreciation that occurs as soon as you drive it off the parking lot. For the best deal, I buy my cars when they’re 1-2 years used, still under warranty, after the original owner has paid for the initial depreciation hit.
  • Yes, it’s a gas guzzler, but we drive only 10,000 miles annually. It would take a loooong time to hit the breakeven point between the gas savings and the extra expenses associated with buying a new car: purchase price, increased registration fees, higher insurance premiums, etc.
  • Like everything else we own, we have taken excellent care of our clunker. It’s clean, reliable, comfortable and still looks great. Frankly, I couldn’t bear to think of it being destroyed!
  • Once the Cash for Clunkers program is over, new car prices will likely come down for other reasons — namely, lack of buyers. Therefore, I’m not worried about missing out on a “good thing”. New car prices going DOWN due to lack of buyers AND used car prices going UP due to lack of cheap cars = A BETTER DEAL LATER.

My advice? Evaluate your finances and transportation needs carefully. If you were planning to buy a new car regardless of the program (and the expense), fine, go for it. But if you have a good ‘ol clunker like mine, avoid rash decisions.

Outwardly Simple and Inwardly Rich

It’s been my experience that frugality can run the continuum from miserly to magnificent.

When I was a child, I never went a day without a nutritious meal or a warm bed. Still, I recall times when I perceived my family as poor. In the school cafeteria, I furtively slipped my free lunch ticket to the cashier — with hopes that my friends wouldn’t notice that my family received government-provided financial assistance. When my father returned to college to earn his graduate degree, my siblings and I shared one crowded bedroom in a tiny apartment. I was teased unmercifully whenever my peers noticed the strips of fabric my mom sewed onto the bottom of my out-grown “high-water” pants to make them long enough to cover my ankles once again.

The most painful part of our family’s frugality, though, was when I overheard my parents argue about money.

At other times, I was aware that my parents purposely chose our frugal lifestyle — they voluntarily chose to live simply. Those were the best of times. “High-water” pants or not, our family was free from the handcuffs of Stuff. We used things up, repurposed them, and improvised. My parents were good role models for me in this regard.

As a young adult, I operated from a mindset of scarcity. I feared running out — or not having enough — of what I needed. After a year of struggling to support myself financially through college, I dropped out. I took another job: pouring coffee during the graveyard shift at a donut shop. Many of my customers were homeless. They nursed one cup of coffee – all night long – to earn a warm spot inside.

One night, it dawned on me that I was one paycheck from becoming homeless, too.

I dealt with my anxiety by hoarding what little money I made. I shared rent for a one-bedroom apartment with three other young women and dined on free appetizers offered at local bars during Happy Hour. At that point in my life, frugality – emotionally speaking – was a defensive action.

“A miser is a person who is reluctant to spend money, sometimes to the point of forgoing even basic comforts. The term derives from the Latin miser, meaning “poor” or “wretched,” comparable to the modern word “miserable”.”


Over time, my fearful and hoarding behavior resulted in a medical insurance policy and an emergency fund. I had stashed enough to see me through a missed paycheck or two. But did I have enough? Would my future always include beater cars, cramped apartments and grocery coupons? Was I destined to earn minimum wage, doing a job I hated, forever?

“Frugality (also known as thrift or thriftiness) is the practice of acquiring goods and services at minimum cost, achieved via economical restraints or creative measures. Frugality can be related to the idea of being conservative or conserving money.”


Frugality continued to feed my savings account and in turn, my savings account afforded new opportunity. Consequently, I was able to become an unpaid apprentice to learn a new skill. After studying animal behavior and learning how to train dogs, I quickly landed a higher paying job. And I loved my work. As my skills, enthusiasm and reputation grew, I started my own dog-training business. Despite my increased income, I continued to live frugally. However, I made a point to shift my mental attitude of lack to one of abundance. The purpose of my frugal behavior shifted from reactive to proactive.

“To be healthy, wealthy, happy and successful in any and all areas of your life you need to be aware that you need to think healthy, wealthy, happy and successful thoughts twenty four hours a day and cancel all negative, destructive, fearful and unhappy thoughts. These two types of thought cannot coexist if you want to share in the abundance that surrounds us all.”
—Sidney Madwed

Today, rather than being driven by fear, I embrace the abundance in my life. I have enough. Rather than flashy opulence and keeping-up-with-the-Joneses behavior, my husband and I joyfully choose a lifestyle of voluntary simplicity. Duane Elgin, author of the classic book Voluntary Simplicity, defines simple living as:

“Living in a way that is outwardly simple and inwardly rich.”

From fearful and miserly to voluntary and magnificent, frugality has had a profound impact on my life.

Simple living (or voluntary simplicity) is “a lifestyle in which individuals consciously choose to minimize the ‘more-is-better’ pursuit of wealth and consumption. Adherents choose simple living for a variety of reasons, including spirituality, health, increase in ‘quality time’ for family and friends, stress reduction, conservation, social justice or anti-consumerism, while others choose to live more simply for reasons of personal taste or personal economy.”


May we all enjoy a magnificent and inwardly rich life!

Yes, I’ve Paid the Price, But Look How Much I’ve Gained!

I was eight years old when my girlfriends and I strutted proudly around our living room singing into our hairbrush faux-microphones:

“Oh yes I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong (strong)
I am invincible (invincible)
I am woman”

In 1972, Helen Reddy co-wrote the song I Am Woman, which became a worldwide #1 hit, feminist anthem and cultural icon of the times. Here’s a YouTube of the song:

(Note: RSS and email subscribers – you’ll need to click to my blog to view it)

37 years later, I am woman. What does this song mean to me today? What impact has being a woman had on my life? What kind of woman do I strive to be?

“I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore”

When I have something important to say, I don’t sit quietly with my hands folded demurely on my lap. I am not afraid to speak out or to advocate for those who can’t. Sometimes I spread my message in a big way, like blogging or appearing on national television.

I used to think I had to roar. But do you know what happened? People covered their ears and tuned me out. So I learned to purr instead. Incessant, impossible to ignore purring when necessary – but I’ve learned to deliver my message in a pleasant way, so that others want to listen.

“And I know too much to go back an’ pretend
‘Cause I’ve heard it all before
And I’ve been down there on the floor
No one’s ever gonna keep me down again”

I’ve been sad, squashed and small. I’ve been a victim and I’ve hit rock bottom. I grew up in a dysfunctional family, I had an abusive boyfriend, I’ve been poor and hungry.

As a newlywed, my in-laws chastised me for “wearing the pants” in our new marriage. They said my husband was the star and I should play the supporting role. They bought me a sewing machine, cookbooks and an iron. They tried to put me in my place.

I strive to reflect, learn and grow from each life experience. I keep an open mind. I choose not to stay stuck. I understand that the only person I can change is me.

“Oh yes, I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to
I can do anything”

Because I reflect, learn and grow, I am wiser with each passing moment. I’ve learned from conflict and difficult experiences. I change what I can and peacefully accept what I cannot.

Because “I can do anything” (and despite the rough start with my chauvinistic in-laws), I’ve been happily married to the same man, my best friend, for over 21 years. We are not the same; we are equals and we compliment one another’s strengths.

Because I’ve felt loneliness, I cherish my friends.

Because I’ve been penniless and hungry, I’ve learned how to make enough money and I savor nourishing food.

Because I missed spending quality time with my workaholic father when I was a child, I chose to be financially free before I became a parent.

Because I am wise and strong and a nurturing woman, I share my life and my unconditional love with our beautiful daughter — who was abandoned at birth simply because she is a girl.

“I am strong (strong)”

Yes, I am unabashedly strong. And I embrace my feminine qualities: I am soft, gentle, loving, nurturing and beautiful. Strength and femininity are compatible. Strength doesn’t need to be heavy-handed; in fact, gentle strength is far more effective. Purr.

“I am invincible (invincible)”

By definition, I refuse to be overcome or subdued. But I’m not Super Woman, either, nor do I strive to be.

Women today are expected to possess super-human powers: Get Jill and Johnny dressed while cooking a hot breakfast between loads of laundry while conducting an important business conference call before heading to the airport for an out-of-state conference. Don’t forget to drop the dog off at the groomer’s on the way. And wear lingerie under your business suit so you can enjoy sexy intimacy with your husband when you get home tonight – after helping the kids with their homework and putting them to bed, of course. Oops, did you forget to pick up the dog?

I recognize my limits. I can’t do everything and I’m not skilled at every task. When I was a teenager, my siblings and I pitched in our allowance to pay for a house cleaner so we could have our weekends free to do as we wanted. Today, I do my own laundry and my husband does his. And despite my “way” with money, I have a bookkeeper that makes sure my bills are paid on time.

“You can bend but never break me
‘Cause it only serves to make me
More determined to achieve my final goal
And I come back even stronger
Not a novice any longer
‘Cause you’ve deepened the conviction in my soul”

When I respect myself, others can’t walk all over me. I believe in what I believe, because I believe in me.

“I am woman watch me grow
See me standing toe to toe
As I spread my lovin’ arms across the land
But I’m still an embryo
With a long, long way to go”

I am not done. Every experience, every relationship, every thought is an opportunity for personal growth. And I am willing to share my journey with others. I won’t allow you to step on my toes and I promise not to step on yours. I will look you straight in the eye, toe to toe, and share my truth with a warm smile. I am open, nurturing and loving. I love me, I love you, I love life.

“Until I make my brother understand”

Women and men are different in several obvious ways. But regardless of our gender-specific hormonal soup and X/Y chromosomes, I believe that we are more alike than we are different.

I am willing to open myself up to the world. I dream of universal acceptance, peace and understanding, beyond all stereotypes. I am your sister. Purr.

“Oh, I am woman
I am invincible
I am strong”

Note: This post was my response to Steve Pavlina’s provocative invitation to write “How to Be a Woman” and originally appeared on my hacked and defunct blogspot blog in 2008. This submission was selected by Erin (Pavlina’s wife) as one of her top picks.

Is The Recession Over? My Gut-Check Impressions on the Future of Our Economy.

I’ve been receiving emails lately from people asking questions like:

“Is the stock market experiencing a true recovery or is this just a bear market rally?”
“Do you think we’ll see a V, W, U or L shaped recovery?”
“Should we expect deflation or inflation?”
“When will my house be worth as much as I paid for it?”
“How should I invest my money? Stocks, bonds, cash, real estate, gold, or foreign currencies?”
“Is the recession really over?”

Some are saying that I’m prescient (have knowledge of events before they take place). As much as I wish this were true, it isn’t, I promise. I got out of real estate and stocks before many others simply because I stopped listening to mainstream and acknowledged the writing that was already plastered on the proverbial wall.

Like many of you, I hear and read convincing forecasts made by a variety of so called experts who support opposing arguments and recommendations. And each time, I try like hell to take a step back and take a gut check. What seems to make the most sense to me? Is there evidence to support it and if so, who or what is the source? What emotion am I feeling and what does this emotion “want” me to think? What is the worst thing that can happen if a particular forecast comes true? How can I reduce the risks associated with various outcomes? And last but not least, what decisions will allow me to sleep well at night?

I’m hesitant to share my recession outcome opinions with others for a few reasons: 1) I don’t want anyone to make decisions based on my guesses, 2) Discussion of possible outcomes often turns to politics — and political discussion tends to get overheated, 3) Some might take perverse joy from pointing to this post in the future, with a wagging finger, telling me how wrong my guesses ended up.

But I’ve decided that I’m as entitled to guesstimate forecasts as anyone else, so here it goes, for nothing more than entertainment value and for exposing my potential bias. Normally I provide hyperlinks to information, statistics and educated opinions that support my writing, but not today. If you want to read the news or hear what the “experts” are saying about this stuff, use Google, turn on the boob tube, crank the radio or grab any newspaper. There is no shortage of opinions thrown about. Please come to your own conclusions.

Here are my gut-check guesstimates on the future of the economy:

I think the stock market will climb a bit more, then retest the March lows. Minus some funky blips, I think we’re in for a long “L” shaped recovery; or really, one that looks more like a long bathtub:

(March ’09)    /\_____________/    (several years later)

Note: The bottom of my tub diagram should have an overall slow gradual curve to it plus a few wicked and jagged up-down points but I don’t know how to illustrate this with my keyboard. My bathtub edges should look taller, too. If it wasn’t so close to my bedtime, I’d draw you a picture instead…

I think we’ll continue to experience deflationary pressure. I think the Fed will continue to “stimulate” the economy but will face an upward battle trying to make it stick. If and when deflation is curbed, measures will be needed to tighten the money supply to prevent hyperinflation. I think these measures will be taken. From what I understand, it is easier to curb inflation than it is to stop a deflationary spiral.

I think housing prices have further to fall in most areas. Besides the probability of an overcorrection, Baby Boomers are beginning to hit retirement age and because much of their net worth in real estate and stocks has been wiped out, they will be downsizing en masse. McMansions will languish on the market or they’ll be repurposed into multi-family or extended-family units. Commercial property will be hit with a sledgehammer.

I think I will continue to stash most of my cash because with deflation, cash is king. When I do buy ETFs (only the ones that are experiencing upward momentum), I will keep tight stop losses in place. I will take a look at the currency market (certainly not my area of expertise) to see whether or not it’s a good fit for me. Overall, during this extremely volatile market, my main focus is capital preservation. This keeps me sleeping as snug as a bug in a rug.

In this economy, I think one of the best places to invest is in one’s own skills and education. I think vocational schools will see an increase in enrollment while universities see a marked decrease.

Entrepreneurs most likely to succeed will be the ones who bootstrap, sell low-priced necessity items, entertainment or services and keep overhead extremely low. Most of them will operate from in-home offices.

Because I think prices will continue to fall, I will continue to put off large purchases.

And finally, as painful as the process is likely to be, I think the Great Recession will ultimately be the Great Shake Up our society and planet needs to get on the financially and ecologically sustainable track. (Wow, that’s a mouthful.)

Okay, now it’s your turn. What do YOU see in your magic crystal ball? Please share your opinions and guesstimates in the comments. Have fun and play nice.

Relevant Post: Hyperinflation or Prolonged Deflation? Coping and Investing Strategies For Either Scenario

How to Make a Million Dollars While Eating Lunch

In response to my last post, Would You Ditch A Car For $1,000,000?, a reader made the comment: “As a grad student in an urban area, I don’t have a car (nor could I afford one) and I use public transit. … I wish there was a “big ticket” item like that that I could easily cut out of my life, but there just isn’t. Instead I try to cut back on small things and aggressively invest for cashflow.”

While savings do accumulate faster when you cut back on the biggest budget-buster categories (housing, transportation, insurance and taxes), the little things do add up. Take for instance:

My Million Dollar Lunch Recipe

  1. Replace your $9.50 restaurant lunches (sandwich, fries, soft drink, sales tax, tip and mileage) with a nutritious $3.00 lunch brought from home.
  2. Deposit your $143 monthly savings ($6.50 daily, 22 working days a month) into a Roth IRA retirement account.
  3. Invest in equities (stocks, mutual funds) at a 10%* annual long-term average rate of return.
  4. Let your account simmer for 41 years.

Recipe Yield = $1,000,837

Serve: During retirement with whipped cream and a cherry on top.

Total deposits = $70,356
Total interest earned = $930,481
Total taxes paid = $0
Total Saved= $1,000,837

Optional Garnishes:

  • Combine with a 20 minute walk to the park for lunch.

    Yield: 1,277,232 calories— enough to keep off (or lose) 365 pounds! (Calculated for a person weighing 140 pounds walking 4mph for 20 minutes (1.33 miles) 5 days a week for 41 years.)

  • Pack a lunch for your spouse.

    Yield: An additional $1,000,837

  • Add a group of supportive friends for lunch to work on the Baby Steps to Financial Freedom together. Yield: Financial freedom – with friends who will have the resources to enjoy it with you!

Isn’t it amazing how much money you can amass by investing small amounts over long periods of time?

Once you think in terms of investing instead of spending, look for ways to duplicate this process in other ways. Consider the following actions:

  • buy staples in bulk and invest your savings

  • invest your employee bonuses

  • invest unexpected financial gifts and inheritances

  • invest your tax refunds

  • buy a term life insurance policy instead of a whole life one and invest your monthly premium savings

  • buy a used car instead of new and invest the difference in price

  • borrow books, movies and music from your local public library and invest your savings

  • save and invest your pocket change

Imagine this: Starting with $0 and depositing $5,000 annually in a Roth IRA account over 41 years (at a 10%* annual rate of return compounded monthly), you will have $3,081,554.

Total deposits = $210,000
Total interest earned = $2,871,554
Total taxes paid = $0
Total Saved= $3,081,554

Choose affordable and cost-effective options and rather than feel deprived, feel excited that you get to invest the difference in yourself and your future.

~ Bon Appetit!


*The actual rate of return is largely dependent on the type of investments you select. From January 1970 to December 2008, the average annual compounded rate of return for the S&P 500, including reinvestment of dividends, was approximately 9.7% (source: www.standardandpoors.com).

Total savings are calculated in actual dollars (not inflation-adjusted). A common measure of inflation in the U.S. is the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which has a long-term average of 3.1% annually, from 1925 through 2008.

Would You Ditch A Car For $1,000,000 (One Million Dollars)?

A study found that households with 3 or more cars are the single largest group among American car owners. The national average is 2.28 vehicles per household. Obviously, Americans are very much in love with the automobile.

According to the AAA, the average American spends $9,369, excluding loan payments, to drive ONE medium sedan 15,000 a year. In arriving at this estimate, AAA figures in fuel, routine maintenance, tires, insurance, license and registration, loan finance charges and depreciation costs.

22 years ago, my husband and I sold one of our cars to pay for our wedding and honeymoon. We intended to replace the sold vehicle eventually — after we built up our credit score so we could get a car loan — but as time went by, we discovered that sharing one car between the two of us was no big deal. We learned to carpool, drop one another off, take turns, group errands, walk, bike, take the bus, work from an in-home office, go places together. Surprisingly, 22 years later, we still share just one car.

It would be difficult to figure out exactly how much my husband and I have saved over the past 22 years (with the effects of inflation), but it is easy to calculate how much more we can save if we continue to share one vehicle:

If we continue to share one car instead of owning two for the the next 29 years, invest our compounded annual savings and earn an 8%* annual rate of return, we could save an additional one million dollars**.

Would you be willing to ditch a car for a cool million? Let us know in the comments.

*The actual rate of return is largely dependent on the type of investments you select. From January 1970 to December 2008, the average annual compounded rate of return for the S&P 500, including reinvestment of dividends, was approximately 9.7% (source: www.standardandpoors.com).

**actual value with annual investments adjusted for inflation @ 3.1%*** annually.

***A common measure of inflation in the U.S. is the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which has a long-term average of 3.1% annually, from 1925 through 2008.