The All Powerful Motivator

Think back…what’s the most intense memory you have?  Oftentimes, the events of our lives that we tend to remember the most involve intense emotional responses (good or bad) to the events themselves.  We owe this to an area of the brain known as the limbic system; it consists of several structures that are heavily involved in the formation of our memories.  The amygdala, a piece of flesh the mere size of an almond, is responsible for what is known as fear conditioning and the cognitive processes that our bodies experience when we develop a fear of something.

Additionally, the limbic system consists of several other structures such as the hippocampus, responsible for long-term memory storage, the olfactory complex (which is why it is often said that smell is the sense with the strongest tie to memory) and the hypothalamus, whose job entails maintaining a state of homeostasis throughout the body by producing hormones that regulate the production and inhibition of other hormones from our other organ systems.

For the purpose of this article, I’m going to focus on the endocrine system.

Within the endocrine system itself, to narrow things down even further, we find, among other organs, the adrenal glands.  You have two of these glands, one sitting on top of each of your kidneys.  One of the hormones that each of these glands produces, you are undoubtedly familiar with:  epinephrine, or more commonly known as…ADRENALINE!

Adrenaline is the hormone that results in what is known as the “fight-or-flight” response that we experience during a stressful or fearful situation.  Stimulating the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system, adrenaline results in our heart beating faster, our airways opening to allow more vital oxygen into our cells, our pupils dilating, the release of additional glucose (ENERGY!) from the liver, and the diversion of blood flow from non-essential organs, such as our bowels, to our brains and muscles…prepping us to scissor-kick some shit if necessary!

You see, the human body is amazing.  Bones, muscle, nerves, skin…individually useless.  But, stitched together into a interconnected web, they have the capacity to make one hell of an incredibly well-oiled machine, powered by the greatest super-computer the world will ever know…the brain.


Writing this, I can’t help but be reminded of my experience with these very processes last July.  I had backed our Jeep out of the garage early in the day to allow our housing/hospital maintenance guys to get to our basement to check out the AC that was on the fritz.  That afternoon, before moving it back into the garage, I busted out the BBQ and, deciding to take the grates out and give them a good cleaning before firing it up, I rounded the front of the car and, coiled up under the front passenger tire, was a rattlesnake…hands down, my greatest physical fear.  I immediately stopped dead in my tracks and could literally feel the physiological changes happening within my body.  I experienced tunnel vision as my eyes became hyper-focused on the snake and its location.  My heart began racing, I could feel my hands become moist with perspiration.  Blood flow was shunted away from my skin, causing me to experience a wave of cool over my body, my breaths deepened, and I could feel a rush of blood to my brain, resulting in a lightheaded feeling.

There was no conscious thought that had to occur.  The fact of the matter was, plain and simple, one of us was about to fucking die.  I certainly had no intention of experiencing the bite of a snake or the subsequent trip to the Emergency Room in my own backyard, followed by an air flight to a larger hospital with an Intensive Care Unit.  Therefore, never breaking eye contact, I sat the grill grate down, grabbed my shovel that, thankfully, happened to be right next to me in the corner of the garage, and got down to business.  After it was over, I went over to the door and yelled for my wife…who, of course, thought I was full of shit.  I could then begin to feel the effects of the parasympathetic system kicking in, prompted by the hypothalamus working to bring me back to that state of homeostasis.  My heart rate began slowing down, my respiratory rate began to relax, my hands began tremling, and I suddenly felt the urge to pee…thankfully, my body prevented me from pissing my pants at the sight of the snake!  🙂


This anatomy lesson was all a preface to my next post, in which I will discuss my encounter with fear from more of a personal finance standpoint, entitled Don’t Be Afraid to Run!  I really hope you’ll decide, if you haven’t already, to follow along with my family’s journey to financial independence.  And definitely come back for my next post, which will be coming on Friday!

Please comment below and share your own adrenaline-induced memory.

– Nurse on Fire

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Anatomy & Physiology of Personal Finance

As a nurse, part of my job is to educate patients on various subjects ranging from medication benefits, uses, and side effects to disease processes and rationales for doctor-ordered treatments.  This got me thinking about how I could interweave these lessons with a Personal Finance twist.  Here are some analogies I have come up with so far:


 

In the womb, the developing fetus grows in what is known as the cephalocaudal and proximal-distal fashion, meaning that it develops head-to-toe and from the near-to-far (center-outwards.)  Starting at the top, we have the brain, which begins to form around the fifth week of development, along with the spinal cord, heart, and other organs.  In the realm of personal finance, we, ourselves, are the brain.  We choose what we do, how we educate ourselves, how to spend our time, energy, and money, and we control everything that we do in pursuit of our personally determined goals and desires.

 


Our heart begins beating around the sixth week of development and in the realm of personal finance, I liken our budgets to the heart.  Money from our respective jobs flows into the budget, where it is then pumped out and utilized to destroy our debts and/or feed our investments with vital, oxygen-carrying nutrients.

 


Debt can be compared to Diabetes.  The analogy I use when educating patients on the effects of uncontrolled blood sugar levels is that the sugar molecules circulating through your blood vessels and capillaries can be likened to a golf ball making their way through a garden hose that gets progressively smaller as it reaches our hands, feet, and eyes.  These large sugar molecules don’t like to fit, in essence get stuck, and result in decreased blood flow to the extremities, numbness/tingling (neuropathy) of the hands and feet, and diabetic retinopathy of the eyes, which can ultimately lead to blindness.  Debt, likewise, when allowed to get out of control, can lead to this progressively downward spiral and have detrimental effects on our health and well-being, financial and otherwise.


Pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas, is a condition in which the pancreatic enzymes amylase and lipase are elevated, resulting in intense upper abdominal pain for the patient…pain that, from my nursing experience, is generally only relieved with morphine and being NPO, an acronym for nil por os, a Latin term meaning “nothing by mouth.”  Eating/drinking results in a process known as peristalsis, which moves food and fluids through our GI system, and causes digestive enzymes, such as amylase and lipase, to be released, stimulating the pancreas and resulting in increased pain.  This is comparable to the idea of selling in a down market…it only increases the pain!


 

To bring up the proverbial rear, market forecasters could be viewed as the bowels of personal finance…they’re generally full of shit and give me a stomach ache.  🙂  Just eat your fiber (pick a solid index fund) and enjoy regular relief in knowing that history has shown a general upward trend in the market.  And remember, in the event that doomsdayers are ever actually correct, our money will be toilet paper anyway (pun intended…but don’t actually do that…EVER…money is literally disgusting!)  Besides, if they’re ever right in saying that our financial system is collapsing, you’re still better off investing in the market because hoarding cash under your mattress or burying it in the backyard is only going to result in the loss of your purchasing power due to inflation.


Well I certainly hope you’ve enjoyed my cheesy analogies for the day; in the event I come up with more, you’ll be the first to know.  Have an awesome day!  😀

– Nurse on Fire

 

Cultivation of a Passion

Dear Son,

“I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor” – Henry David Thoreau

I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I first discovered that quote, maybe 12-ish, but when I did, I printed it out, put it in a frame, and kept it on my bedside table throughout the remainder of my childhood.  I’ve always loved it, believed it, and, although life has kicked my ass into different directions, I still do.

The thing is, I never really developed any true passion for anything while I was in my formative school-age years.  For a while, I had the idea that developing computer-animated movies, like Toy Story or Minions for example, would be really cool.  Realizing that, the vast majority of the time, I can’t draw for shit, I had the good sense to not pursue the idea…not that I knew how to pursue it anyway.  Beyond that, I honestly cannot think back to my childhood/early-teen years when I had some sort of epiphany regarding what I wanted to do with my life.  Truth-be-told, I didn’t even know what my options were.  I always considered myself to have been a good student, getting A’s and B’s, with the intermittent straight A’s, throughout my entire primary and secondary education.  However, good grades don’t equate to a career choice.

During my junior and senior years of high school I was in Building Trades class, enjoyed building houses, and upon the encouragement of my teacher, sought a junior college program in construction management.  Having no earthly clue what I would ultimately do with the degree, or any other ideas for schooling, I went for it and graduated with the Associate’s degree in 2007.  While in the program, having always loved math, I developed an interest in construction estimating and came to the idea of becoming a property damage insurance adjuster.  Interviewing for one position, against a stack of applications about 4 inches thick, with zero experience, I didn’t get the job.  I took to a job-listing site (Monster, I think?) and rather quickly got a job as an insurance salesman with AFLAC.  I loved the thrilling potential of unlimited commission-based income; unfortunately, no matter how much passion and drive one brings to the table, things don’t always work out and, after just a few short months, I was broke, with credit card debt, and moving back home with my parents to work at a factory.

I worked at that factory for three years awaiting my now-wife, your mother, to graduate from high school, then community college, all while also working on additional prerequisites of my own.  While working at the factory, I knew that I wanted to go back to school…for what, was yet to be determined.  I tossed around the ideas of criminal justice, culinary school, teaching, and space man (just kidding)…I didn’t know what the hell I wanted.  Thankfully, my mother-in-law, your grandma, was going through and graduating from nursing school around this time, prompting me to consider that as a possibility, as well.  I really loved the idea of teaching history but knew that teachers in my home-state of Illinois were being canned left-and-right.  The more I looked into nursing and developed an understanding of the ridiculous number of career paths, including teaching, nursing could present, I had my choice.

At this point, with absolutely no prior experience working in healthcare, I was not in pursuit of any preconceived notion of a “passion” I had.  I took a course to become a Certified Nurse’s Aide and thus began the cultivation of my passion.  I have now been a nurse for nearly two-and-a-half years and I could not be happier with my career choice.  My career started in Indiana, working with a population of patients dealing with diabetes and kidney issues.  Now I find myself working in South Dakota on a Native American reservation.  Next? Well, that’s for another post.

The point is that my passion for nursing was not some innate sense of purpose for my life…but it is now.  I honestly can’t see myself doing anything else because I love it.  Having the opportunity to help people every single day is incredible and I am grateful for the opportunity to do so.  As I continue to cultivate my passion and look forward to the future, I know that my opportunities are near limitless.

It is my sincerest hope that you, my son, will find a passion for your own life, no matter what it may be.  As your parents, I believe it is our duty to present you with opportunities, helping you to see the many options that are available to you.  Likewise, we have an immense responsibility to be realistic with you.  To guide you in seeking out and fine tuning your strengths while also working on your weaknesses will, theoretically, help you succeed in finding a passion worth cultivating.  While I would never advocate for the idea of blatantly telling you that you can’t do something, if you come up to me at sixteen, tell me you want to be a musician and have never picked up an instrument in your life, I’m going to be honest with you and tell you that your odds of success are, while not impossible, incredibly unlikely and that you should consider music as a hobby, not a career.  However, if you tell me you want to travel the country with a back pack and live off the land, I’ll support that…so long as you have the knowledge and skill set that would allow for this choice.

The point is, I don’t care what you do with your life.  That’s not to say that I am aloof with regards to your choices; what I mean is that your mother and I will expose you to as many life experiences and career options that we possibly can and, whatever you ultimately choose to do with your life, we will support you in your rational and well-thought-out decision.  Your future will be a heavily researched and discussed topic throughout the entirety of your childhood.  Whether you want to be a doctor, an unemployed vagabond, or anything in between, we will not allow you to come to that decision lightly.  However, in the long run, no matter how much effort we put into helping you, your choices will ultimately be just that…your own…and, as long as you’re happy and find peace and contentment in your life, I’m good with that.

Love,

Dad

P.S. – I would like to extend a huge thank you to Ernie at Purple Sweatpants for inspiring this post.