Thursday, June 29, 2017

How to Fix Health Care, Our Divided Society, and REALLY Make America Great Again...

Dear President Trump,

I know that as a country, we have a lot of problems right now.

I also know that we have a lot of great people. People who dearly love this country, but who feel like they've been left behind.

Not only that, but as a country, we've maybe never been quite so divided.

It seems like every issue now is "us vs. them." The art of compromise--the "art of the deal," if you will, seems like it's dying a little bit every day.

And that division comes at a great price. As we bicker over endless minutia in the hopes of scoring hollow political victories, the real problems remain:

-Broken healthcare

-Crumbling infrastructure

-A divided citizenry that thinks they hate half the country

-A skills gap that keeps a growing number of people out of the workforce, and (to a lesser extent),

-A corporate tax base that continues to dwindle due to tax inversion.

These problems are serious, and require a serious effort to fix.

But What If You Had a Plan to Address ALL Of These Issues... And TRULY Make America Great Again... Within a Decade?

It's not going to be easy... and it'll require a little deal-making ability... but if you can pull it off, it would cement your legacy as one of the greatest Presidents in our history.


I present to you:

America Serves

The basic idea is simple:

-After graduating high school, allow young adults to sign up for a 1-2 year term of national service in an area vastly different than the one they grew up in.

Think "Green Acres." Urbanites heading out to rural America and vice versa. 

First of all, this will expose our young people to people from other walks of life.

Part of what divides us currently is the simple fact that people are insulated within their own little "bubbles."

The working class family from "rural, red state America" watches Fox News and has little time for "academic, Ivory tower" liberal ideas that just "aren't practical."

Similarly, many urbanites in "blue cities" don't get to see what rural life is like in America these days. Many haven't even gotten to see open fields, or see that there's a "different way" than the way they grew up.

By transplanting people across the country, you'd start to see people gain that one crucial thing that you can never get from inside a bubble:


They'd start to learn a little bit of empathy for people who are different from them... and in the process, perhaps they'd come to understand that yes, these people are Americans too!

Sure their problems may be a bit different... and they may live differently and have "funny ideas" about certain things... but ultimately, we all live under the same flag... and we should all be proud to do so.

-This program will be completely voluntary... 

NOT compulsory. I think the concepts of liberty and freedom should be honored, and baked more into our national consciousness. However...

-To entice young people to participate, for every year you serve, you'd get ten years of access to highly discounted, "public option"healthcare.

So serve one year, you'd get ten years of access to health care.

Serve two, you'd get 20 years.

Essentially pay a small premium every month (like $100) and you'd get access to a V.A.-like system of hospitals.

Each child that the person had could be covered for an additional $50/month. So 3 kids would only cost $150/month extra.

Now before you go saying, "The V.A.?! What is this guy, nuts?!?"...

The V.A. is actually getting better. A lot better, actually. High-quality doctors are increasingly considering the V.A. since they don't want to deal with salary structures that rely on how many patients you can get through the door in a given year.

People would flock to America Serves in droves just for ten years of deeply discounted healthcare.

Not only that, but it gives Congressional Republicans a political "out," since they can give in on the public option for some Americans, but in exchange for real, honest work that helps the country.

It's a win-win.

What Kinds of Projects Would America Serves Folks Work On?

As a part of America Serves, you'd get a huge workforce to help with a variety of projects, including:

-Infrastructure Projects: First we could repair our crumbling bridges and roadways. Then we could work on building high-speed rail lines, hyperloop lines, airport improvements--things that matter to help people and goods get places.

-City and Rural Modernization: Think bringing broadband to rural areas, or computerizing the records department of a city.

-National Park Improvement: Would be great to get urban young adults out in the fresh air to make our National Parks (the lasting legacy of the great Teddy Roosevelt, mind you) even better than they are now. I'm thinking new trails, new lodges, improved accessibility options, and more interactive displays.

-Tech Projects: I'm thinking of things like mapping roads for driverless cars. I don't even know if this is a thing anymore, but doing the kind of "grunt work" that would vastly improve our country down the road, and save lives.

-"Manhattan-Type Projects": I'm a firm believer in big projects, like the Manhattan Project and Moon Landing, that energize the modern tech sector, build jobs, advance technology through pure research, and frankly inspire the country to greater heights. A project like this may not be feasible for a few years, but once we set one (nationwide hyperloop network potentially?), it could be a huge source of ongoing jobs.

This would only be the start... and you could get a lot more projects than this, simply by surveying every city and county in America and asking, "If you had the people, what would you like to get done right now?"

All you'd have to pay them would be a stipend for housing, food, and basic goods that would vary with the area of the country you were in with the cost of living.

Not Only That... But These Projects Would Help Build Skills Too...

A lot of these projects help build either:

-Engineering skills, or

-Computer skills

These are exactly the kinds of skills we want to build in our young people, right?

And even better, they'll learn them in the field, on-the-job, getting real "resume experience" with real-world projects.

Better still: once done, these people will be better prepared to continue their educations formally if they so desire.

In fact, if it's feasible, I'd like to add some sort of "G.I. Bill" component to this... or at least 2 years of college assistance at a heavy discount (so that someone could do 2 years at a Juco and then finish their degree at a 4-year University if they'd like). But it might be "too much" to make it work at the start.

Not only that, but I'd like some kind of "skills training" requirement to be a part of the program.

Basically you identify a dozen "highly marketable" skills... then hire folks (as part of the program) to teach those skills to participants 1-2 nights per week for 6 months.

After 6 months, the participant would switch to a different "highly marketable" skill.

This would give them at least 2 marketable skills to help them find work after their America Serves term is over. And as Scott Adams notes, becoming "pretty good" at 2 skills is often enough to make a person wildly successful in the job market.

These skills could be wide-ranging, including:

-Public Speaking
-Computer Programming
-Data Security
-Private Space Program / Rocket Science
-HVAC maintenance

Really, wherever we "need more people" to compete with China and other potential challengers in the next century.

So where would we find these instructors?

That brings me to my next point...

What About Older Americans Who Haven't Had the Chance to Participate? And What Happens When the 10-20 Years of Coverage Runs Out?

These are kind of related, so I'll address them at the same time.

After an initial 3-year "shakedown" period, America Serves would be open to ALL Americans of any age for a one-year term.

Yeah that's right--I want the 52-year old programmer who just got downsized from her job to be able to sign up, get her 10 years of healthcare, and learn new, transferable skills.

I want the homeless guy who's lost hope to be able to sign on the dotted line... find housing and a fresh start... pick up a shovel... and get to work if he so desires.

I also want people who have developed skills to bring those to the program too.

So if someone works at SpaceX or NASA... and they wanted to teach some aspect of (presumably non-proprietary) rocket science to America Serves participants... they could do so 1-2 nights per week, and gain eligibility for the public option health insurance, and any educational benefits it would afford.

This would require a public-private partnership to teach these skills... and ensure that nothing proprietary was released to potentially the wrong hands.

But employers would be incentivized to participate for one very simple reason:

They'd instantly gain a pool of potential employees with skills that they desperately need!

(More on that in a second...)

And every eight years after your initial America Serves term... you'd be eligible to "re-up" in the program. Either by taking a working/learning position again, or by taking a teaching/mentoring position in the program.

This would also continue exposing participants to people in a variety of different industries, from different walks of life, with different problems. The bubble collapses further!

About That "Corporate Inversion"...

Oh yeah--so here's the real kicker:

America Serves would help fix corporate inversion too!

Forgive me Mr. President, but this is an open letter, so for those who don't know what corporate inversion is, it's when a country moves to another country to avoid paying the going U.S. corporate tax rate.

It's quite a bit more complicated than that... but that's the general gist of it.

So for example, right now, the tax rate in Ireland is a lot lower than it is here in the U.S.

Because of that, a lot of companies have created Irish holding companies (or merged with Irish companies and headquartered themselves there) for the tax benefits.

It robs us of billions of dollars of tax revenue from these companies... and contributes to the crushing deficit we now face.

But America Serves would fix that, and here's how:

The Carrot: For every America Serves graduate you employ who makes at least $50,000 per year, the employing company would get to take a $50,000 tax credit (or deduction--accounting wasn't my best class in law school).

(Again, this rate is subject to change based on data from the number crunchers).

This provides the incentive (the "carrot") for companies to hire more employees, as it would effectively lower their tax rate.

They could help develop the "skill curricula" that America Serves participants would get, which would make the participant more valuable after graduation.

They'd also be helping create more value in the America Serves program. After all, if graduates are highly sought after, that makes serving in America Serves all the more appealing.

It could also lower corporate healthcare costs. More employees on America Serves could mean fewer who needed to be on expensive corporate plans... though it would be great to come up with a way for employers to give employees an America Serves "supplement" as an enticement to come to their company.

Lower taxes, more jobs, more good jobs... what's not to like?

However, in case that doesn't do enough to entice companies... we'd need an alternative way to compel them should they still remain abroad:

The Stick: No non-American Citizen or Company should be able to lobby Congress or the Executive Branch

If you want to influence policy in this country... then you have to have some kind of skin in the game.

It makes sense, doesn't it?

An "American Company" would just be a company that is headquartered in the United States that agrees to pay taxes according to our (hopefully simplified) ta laws.

This would provide strong incentive for an Apple or similar company to come back home.

If you need to have some sort of repatriation holiday to make it be it.

But it doesn't make sense to allow these countries to move abroad... and then let them lobby for favorable treatment in our government.

In short: you can't have it both ways.

And We'll Pay For This... How?

It's a fair question. This all seems like it's going to take a lot of cash.

But I'd counter that it makes a lot of entitlement programs either obsolete, or able to be drastically reduced.

If someone has the ability to get a "restart" in their career once every 8-10 years, then long-term welfare can be drastically scaled back.

We can also scale back social security (since older folks could take their biggest financial worry--healthcare--out of the equation by passing their skills on to the next generation).

And we could up the age for medicare by 8-10 years as well, practically overnight.

Remember, we want to incentivize folks who have these skills to pass them along to the next generation. If people could be retired for all intents and purposes and teach a couple of classes a week for a year for deeply-discounted healthcare? I'm guessing they'd hop on-board immediately.

Democrats may scream "bloody murder" at any entitlement reductions. But since they'll effectively be getting a form of single-payer healthcare, we all have to compromise here. It's not going to be neat and pretty, but I think the benefits outweigh the costs in this instance.

America Serves Would Bring Us Into the 21st Century

It would fix our infrastructure... 

Create great, skilled, relevant jobs...

Build our workforce...

And it could help end corporate inversion.

Not only would it bring our great country into the 21st century...

But it would also be a big positive experience that a lot of people could get behind.

Sure, you'll have the nay-sayers who'll crow that "It'll never work"...

"It's too expensive"

"It's not feasible"

"How are you going to run it?"

And while sure it'll probably need a few tweaks along the way... I'm sick of hearing why we can't do things as Americans... when half a century ago we were putting men on the moon and paving the way for democracy worldwide.

This would finally be something that would put us on the right track... and help us grow the economy (after all, all of the participants would pay taxes, and would pay even more once they were in teh workforce).

It's the fastest way to Make America Great Again that I know.

What's not to like, Mr. President?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The #1 Way to Stay Organized and Be More Productive, Even If You're Working For Yourself

As anyone who's ever seen my desk or apartment knows, I'm not what you'd call terribly "organized."

Papers and files everywhere... stuff all over the place... if left to my own devices, pretty much any environment I inhabit for an extended period of time starts to look like a "Museum of Clutter."

Unfortunately, back when I was freelancing, this disorganization extended into what I would work on in any given day.

I had a bad case of what's technically known as "shiny object syndrome." I don't know how many different projects I started that never amounted to anything.

I'd work on a book... and then a new website... and then an idea for a startup... and then a client's project.

I was hopelessly all over the place--and worst of all, I never got anything done!

How Working Remotely Helped Me Develop My Best New Habit

Eventually I got into Content Marketing, and even then I didn't feel like I was "firing on all thrusters." For a while I worked for a golf improvement company... and I'd get sidetracked with side projects, new ideas, and other assorted things that didn't ultimately matter.

When I got my current position, I knew I'd need a way to stay on-target. After all, we had 2 Google Hangouts calls daily so that everyone could check in and we could make sure we were all getting things done.

And since what I was about to work on didn't even exist yet, there was a TON to do. I didn't have the luxury of exploring potential "side projects" or anything like that. It was just (quickly) research the best way to do something... and do it. Make it happen.

Fortunately, my boss gave me a book before I started called Work the System. It's about a guy who owned a telemarketing company who suffered from a similar "shiny object syndrome" to my own.

Even more coincidentally, he never seemed to have enough time to finish what he was working on... and his company basically lived "paycheck-to-paycheck" from the checks that came in from outside vendors.

One day, this guy had enough. He decided that chaos wasn't working for him... so he'd look for something more orderly that could give his life more consistency.

And for him, that "something" was the idea of systems.

These "systems" were little more than checklists for common tasks that needed to be repeated frequently for the business. 

They were so simple that anyone could do the task in question. Which meant that this guy could hadn more of these tasks off to his employees... and he'd have more time to work on bringing in more business for his company.

Eventually (spoiler alert), he "systemitized" pretty much every aspect of his business. He started working 10-15 hours a week (since all of the "busy work" was handled by people who were using these systems). 

His quality of life improved drastically. And his business made a TON more money!

This all sounded GREAT to me! And it was honestly exactly what I needed at just the right time: something like a system to keep me on-track. 

As far as I could see, there was only one issue:

What Kind of System Could I Develop to Stay Organized and Productive?

Part of the beauty of these systems the author of Work the System created was that they were simple.

They didn't have many moving parts... and if one of the systems proved to be "broken," he'd just rewrite the step that was broken and try it again.

So when I developed my system to stay "on-task," I went with what I already kind of knew:

I started making daily task lists.

It was kind of an extension of my old job as an attorney where I had to keep track of my billable hours (shudder!). 

For that, I'd keep a list of times that I worked on things and work out the hours at the end of the day.

Of course, my old disorganized self often turned "day" into "month," which could lead to some tracking down documents and whatnot on the day time was due.

I hated billing my time for a variety of reasons. It was inconvenient. It got me out of my "flow" state. It was administrative work, and I'm not afraid to admit that I hate administrative work.

But honestly it was the only kind of system I knew at the time. With one caveat:

Instead of tracking hours, I needed to track what I was doing.

So within the first week, I started writing down what I had to do for the day, longhand. As I completed something, I checked it off the list. Pretty simple, right? Nothing too revolutionary.

Of course, within the first month, problems started cropping up in my system. I'd lose a page of notes (in my Museum of Clutter), and then be forced to ad lib what I'd done for the day.

Much as the author of Work the System noted, if a system is broken, fix the broken part and try it again.

So I started keeping my daily task list in a word document with this format:

Wednesday 2-1-17
-Check the traffic and sales numbers
-Contact expert regarding article
-Write Thursday blog email
-Edit Writer's article for Friday
-Get Optin plugin up-and-running
-Work with developer to get squeeze page up and running
-Finish writer payment report


I usually tried to keep the more important things at the top of the list, but it didn't REALLY matter what order they were in. 

In fact, I still kind of enjoyed jumping around the list a bit--it built in a tiny fraction of the "chaos" I formerly enjoyed into the system without compromising performance.

As I completed things, I'd start "tabbing" them over. And I'd introduce a bold "ROD" (for "Rest of Day") into the list. So that by the time of a call, the list above would look something like this:

Wednesday 2-1-17
          -Check the traffic and sales numbers
          -Contact expert regarding article
          -Write Thursday blog email
          -Edit Writer's article for Friday

-Get Optin plugin up-and-running
-Work with developer to get squeeze page up and running
-Finish writer payment report

To prevent these documents from getting too long (and becoming too sluggish), I'd start a new document at the beginning of every month.

That's pretty much it!

How These Lists Helped Me Boost My Productivity

Over time, I started to notice something weird:

My lists started to get longer. 

Like a lot longer.

It's not that I was parsing things out more, but rather that I was getting more done!

I think subconsciously, I'd get a little hit of dopamine (the "pleasure" chemical in your brain) every time I'd move something over.

More than that, I'd get a sense of accomplishment. I was making progress! I was moving forward! My self-confidence would soar: "I'm organized! I'm a doer!"

But a funny thing happened as I got more and more confident:

My lists started to get SO long that I couldn't finish them each and every day.

I started to worry. Was I doing something wrong? How could I fix the system?

Ultimately there wasn't an "Aha!" moment here either. Over time, I started moving less important tasks lower and lower in the list... 

(And here's probably the most important part):

I gave myself permission to not finish EVERYTHING on the list in a given day if the deadline wasn't that day.

This was big psychologically for me. I don't like having "stuff to do," so I want a clean plate when I go home at night.

But I also like stretching myself and "aiming high." I made a conscious decision that it was MORE important to push myself than to worry about "closing out the list."

And I had a simple fix:

If there were things on the list that I didn't finish that could wait until the next day... 

Then I'd just put them at the top of the list the next day!

Simple enough, right? Nothing fancy.

And as I started to have appointments and interviews days ahead?

I'd create that "day" in my list document... and put the interview or appointment under that day so I wouldn't forget it!

My System Evolves to Become Indispensable

Over time, I've come to rely on this system so much that it's a little scary.

But I still had one issue to overcome:

I used these lists at work to great success.

But in my personal time at the beginning or end of the day... I just became a potato.

I'd sit and watch TV... movies... play video games... whatever.

That all changed recently when I read Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss. 

As Tim is so good at doing, he reminded me that we only have about 26,000 days on this planet... and that's assuming we make it to 70, which is no guarantee.

Not only that, but I'm roughly at the halfway marker now. Only 13,000 days left...

And how many of those days will truly be productive?

Hence why I've tried something new: 

Keeping these lists for my side-projects too!

This is why this site suddenly came back to life... why I'm waking up an hour earlier to work on my fiction again... and I have some other projects coming to life as well.

All of this is possible because of these simple, copy-able lists that anyone can make.

Don't have Word? Keep them in a free Google Docs file.

The point is, if you're reading this, you have access to this tool right now.

It's a powerful tool that's boosted my productivity any given day by at least 50%...

And if that doesn't help you adopt this system, think of it like this:

In the coming weeks and months, I'm going to talk about all of the hard work that goes into making an "automatic cash machine" online.

The more you can get done every day... the less time it's going to take to build that same machine.

If you can double your output... you'll reach whatever goal you've set for yourself that much faster.

If you this system... and the other ones I'm going to show you in short order... you'll double your income in half the time.

That's MORE time your site can generate income for you... and LESS of those worrying months at the start waiting for it to take off.

It's win-win... at least from my perspective.

And I hope this helps you as much as it's helped me!


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