Saturday, April 13, 2019

Be Realistic

Guest Post by Art Merrill

Be realistic. That is what we are told. I think we have been thinking about that advice all wrong all this time. It is actually perfect advice. Let us be realistic for a moment. Thomas Stanley wrote a fantastic book many years ago called The Millionaire Next Door. In this book, he describes the results of several decades of studying the truly wealthy in our country. He interviewed only those who were actually net worth millionaires or better. He talked to them about their habits, their businesses. their philosophies, etc.

What he found out was that most of the people in this country who are living lives of true prosperity are not the folks you see on television. 99+% of these people are unknown outside of their local communities. They are not entertainment stars, tech entrepreneurs, politicians. Most of them own small to medium size businesses in rather mundane industries. Some own welding shops, mechanic shops, bakeries, construction companies. Most of them live in middle-class neighborhoods and drive domestic cars and pickup trucks. Most of them have been married to the same person for a long time and have lived in the same house for decades. They wouldn't be caught bragging about their wealth because they earned it gradually and understand that most of those who brag, do so because of fear that they will lose what they have. Really prosperous folks know they can replace anything that is lost because the simple skills and strategies they used to acquire their things are still with them no matter what happens.

The most common paths to prosperity in our country? Owning a small business. Owning rental real estate. Owning stocks and bonds. Think about that for a moment. Which of these is unreachable to you? Is it unrealistic for you to buy a few shares of stock? You probably already bought one house. Who says you cannot buy another for investment purposes? Heck, there are kids starting businesses today, why can't you?

I will tell you what IS unrealistic. It is completely and utterly unrealistic to think that you are uniquely disqualified from these avenues to prosperity. To think that millions of other people from similar backgrounds and with similar skills and abilities have done these things, but you cannot.
Truthfully, in today's digital world, these are only a few of the avenues available. Now, there are a whole new set of possibilities due to the internet and our connectivity. People are making money with silly videos. People are becoming wealthy playing with toys on YouTube. People with internet blogs are raking money in. All of yesterday's paths are still available and a whole new pile of opportunities are now available also.

If you think that, for some mysterious reason, you alone are destined to be left out, you are not thinking realistically. You are assigning yourself a label that does not make any sense at all. Embrace the reality that you can choose any one, or even several of these paths to prosperity. No one is stopping you but you.

Guest Blogger Art Merrill is an entrepreneur and business owner who has spent forty years reading and digesting self-help and personal finance books while owning and running several small but profitable businesses. He is the author of  Why Not You?: The Old Man's Guide to Prosperity  

Sunday, March 17, 2019


For one of the few if not only times, I agree with Donald J. Trump; The system is and always has been rigged. In fact, Donald Trump can say that with confidence because he has been a part of the rigging since birth. Mr. Trump was referring to our political system when he uttered those words, however, systematically it is much larger than any political system. The system that I am referring to that is and has always been rigged is our economic system. You know, "The Haves," "Barely Haves" and "Have Nots," commonly known as the "Upper Class," "Middle Class," and "Poor."  Historically, the upper class in many cases became upper class off of the backs of others and/ or by cheating the system (rigging). This cheating of the system or profiting off of the backs of others allowed them to become even more economically well off ensuring their future generations would remain in that category. Ultimately, once sustaining wealth was attained all efforts were made to appear legal and upstanding with none being the wiser of the nefarious activities that had produced the wealth. Alas, the rigging had begun.

The rigging also included the "isms" that was mentioned in my last post; racism, sexism, classism, ableism, anti-semitism, ageism and heterosexism. The perpetuating of the "isms" facilitated the further rigging of the system. Certain groups were aided in building wealth while others were systematically and intentionally set up to do just the opposite. In fact, these groups helped to build the wealth of the very people who were keeping their boots on their necks. Yes, Mr. Trump, the system is rigged. It always has been.

Our most recent rigging that came to light is this College Admissions Scandal whereby an FBI probe alleges that a network of celebrities, business executives, and other powerful figures is at the center of a massive bribery scheme to secure admission into some of the country’s most elite colleges.  How's that for the system being rigged? Think about this scam for a minute and what it says about our educational system. For whatever reason these parents did not feel that their children had what it took to gain admission to these schools, so they felt the need to pay for their admission.  The children either knew and went along knowing that they were not qualified or they did not know and were led to believe that they were qualified when they weren't. The "Barely Haves" and the "Have Nots" do not have the opportunity to ensure that their children get accepted into a prestigious university whether they are qualified or not. Heck, many are struggling to get them in there even when they are qualified. THE SYSTEM IS RIGGED. It was rigged for 50 or more people including actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman.

I overheard a young man the other day say, "It isn't illegal if you don't get caught," and I was blown away at hearing someone verbalize what I can imagine far too many people think.  I was moved enough by the statement to produce a podcast episode about it using the statement as the title of the podcast.  I guess that is what all of those Upper Class (The Haves) were thinking when they fixed (Oh they had a "Fixer" too) those SAT scores and other entrance requirements.

In the College Admissions Scam, the system was rigged against students who fell in an "ism" category who were most likely in the middle or poor classes because those who have money and lots of it decided to tilt the scales in favor of their children in order for them to continue making even more money. Yes, the system is rigged. The Admissions Scandal is just one example of how the system continues to be rigged while those who are rigging it continue to play the innocent role and deny the very opportunities that they are cheating to have from those who attempt to gain them honestly. I'm sure that there are countless other rigged schemes out there that are keeping the classes where they are.

Mr. Trump was indeed correct with his assertion of the political system being rigged. It was rigged in his favor. He was letting the world know that the system was indeed rigged because he was a part of the ones rigging it. He made it seem as if it was the media or his political opponents when in actuality it was him who was a part of the very rigging that got him elected. Come on now, how else would Donald J. Trump get elected President of the United States if the system was not rigged for him to win?

As more and more scandals come to light, America is looking sadder and sadder. One would never know that America is being made great again (if it ever was). In fact, it seems to appear that we are Making America Corrupt Again (MACA) (If it ever wasn't).

You can hear me live each Saturday from 6-9 a.m. ET as the host of The Reading Circle on and FM radio WP88.7 FM. I invite you to visit my website at to learn more about my radio show, podcast, blog, social media sites and musical projects. The Reading Circle can also be accessed via TuneIn Radio. 

Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Brilliance of The Sitcom All In The Family In 1971 And Its Relevance In 2019

 Yesterday I was watching the old 70's situation comedy (sitcom) known to us as ALL IN THE FAMILY. If you were to "Google" All In The Family, the description would read "All in the Family" is touted as the series that brought reality to prime-time TV entertainment. The lead character, Archie Bunker, is a loudmouthed, uneducated bigot who believes in every stereotype he has ever heard. His wife, Edith, is sweet but not the sharpest knife in the drawer. They and their daughter, Gloria, and her husband, Mike, all live in a working-class home. Unfortunately for Archie, he can't avoid the people he disdains: His son-in-law -- whom Archie calls "Meathead" -- is an unemployed student and of Polish descent; the Jeffersons next door are black; Edith's cousin Maude is a feminist; and, later, his partners in a local tavern are Jewish." The show was produced by Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin.

I've watched reruns of the show periodically and regardless of which episode I am watching, it never fails to get a laugh-out-loud (LOL) response from me. In my opinion, the show is funny as hell. Beyond funny, however, is the brilliance of how the reality of America at that time was symbolized through the characters of the show. The time was forty and eight years ago, in 1971. The touting of the series as the one bringing reality to prime-time television, in my opinion, is true. 

As I laugh and watch episodes of All In The Family, I also analyze the scenarios enacted and the views portrayed toward the various groups, in other words, the "isms" (racism, sexism, classism, ableism, anti-semitism, ageism and heterosexism). I say the show was brilliantly put together because Archie Bunker symbolized America during that snapshot in time and I am sad to report that we seem to be reliving that era. In fact, it almost seems that we have "Archie Bunker" leading the country. 

Now for my analysis.....When you look at the show, Archie always thought that he was the smartest or most intelligent person in the room. In his mind, he knew it all and was always right when the fact of the matter is, Archie was the least educated. But that did not matter because of who he was and who he represented. While as Edith is described above as not being the "sharpest knife in the drawer," she was sharper than Archie, however, the problem was she was a woman (sexism) and was always treated by Archie as his servant and verbal punching bag when in many scenes Edith was the smartest in the room. Archie's views on other races, classes, ages, and sexual preferences spoke for themselves and were clearly articulated throughout the scripts. Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin boldly pushed the envelope in days prior to political correctness. 

For those during that time and now who were of the mindset of the Archie Bunker character, I am sure they did then and now cheer Archie on as Archie symbolizes a time when America was considered great by them (that's why we have to "Make America Great Again-MAGA").  Many of us who fall into the category of one or more "ism's"  believe that to some degree we were able to move beyond the Archie Bunkers of the world because after all, we've had an African American President, right?   Based on everything we've seen particularly since 2016, one might argue that the Archie Bunkers of the world had just gone underground or into hiding. Maybe the Archie Bunkers just chose to remain silent for a time and have now been unleashed now that Archie seems to be in the White House (Archie Bunkers of the world unite!). 

To this day, I am sure there are many who hated the show because it placed our reality, our dirty laundry full frontal in prime-time. There are those in denial of that's who we [America] were and perhaps still is as a country and then there are those who didn't see then or now absolutely anything wrong with Archie's views, opinions and actions. Remember, Archie was the smartest person in the room, loudmouthed and uneducated, but the smartest in the room, at least in his mind, nonetheless. 

There is that old cliche or quote attributed to French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, that says "The more things change, the more they stay the same," and as I watched the two episodes yesterday where Archie was in the hospital and needed a blood transfusion and had to receive the transfusion from his African American doctor because of his [Archie's] rare blood type (AB Negative), that quote came to mind even as I laughed myself onto the floor and off of the couch. 

One of President Trump's favorite words is "sad," and the events that we are witnessing as a result of all of the "ism's" (racism, sexism, classism, ableism, anti-semitism, ageism and heterosexism) that  was satirically depicted in 1971 seems to have come back with a vengeance since the electing of Barack Hussein Obama and subsequent election of Donald J. Trump and that truly is sad. Nearly fifty years later despite all of the changes, things appear to be the same. 

My hat's off to everyone who had anything to do with ALL IN THE FAMILY as it is just as relevant in 2019 as it was in 1971. 

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Friday, November 16, 2018

Humility and Confidence

 Guest post 
Art Merrill

I think we tend to classify ourselves and others in terms of whether we are humble or confident people.  While there is some validity in these assessments in general terms, I think the truth is a bit more nuanced than that.  We all spend our lives moving back and forth on a spectrum with humility on one end and confidence on the other.

     We tend to be humble when we are new at something or striving to master a new skill or ability.  We tend to be humble when we decide to make a move and seek a better station in life for ourselves.  As we gain new skills, we naturally gain confidence in ourselves and that confidence fuels further growth.  This is also natural and good.

     However, I have noticed another pattern within this broader pattern of behavior.  It seems that our confidence eventually grows too large and it crowds out the humility that was the genesis of the learning that led to the newly found confidence in the first place.  As the confidence replaces the humility, the growth also slows or stops completely.

     While this may not seem like a bad thing when observed from a distance, I believe this is the exact moment and place where so many of us tend to plateau or settle.  Perhaps we think we have ‘topped out’ or reached our full potential.  We think we have arrived at our natural place in the world.  We look around and we see that most others who started where we started are doing about as well as we are doing and we conclude-erroneously- that we are where we belong, where we were destined to arrive.

     What I think really happens is that when we allow confidence to crowd out humility, our personal growth is hindered, and our professional growth is prematurely stunted as well.  Our path to prosperity hits a wall.  Our newfound confidence tells us that we are doing great and we get comfortable.  To me, this is tragic.  Humility is the single biggest factor in human development.  Humility opens our minds to receiving new information and new ideas.  It also allows old ideas and mindsets to be examined, questioned and discarded.  While the door of humility is open, we grow, both personally and in terms of our prosperity.  As confidence moves in, it slowly closes the door of humility and the growth is stifled.

     I think it would be wise for all of us to take another look at where we are in our lives.  Is this really where we thought we would end up?  Is this the prosperous and free life we always envisioned for ourselves? Are we living our dreams or enduring our nightmares instead?  Have we stopped making progress and settled for far less than we thought we would?

     If your life is not going as well as you had hoped it would, my advice to you is to try something else.  Dig deep and find that humility again.  Dust it off and open that door.  Decide where your dreams live and start learning about that path.  Get some books, take some classes, attend some seminars.

     If your job, your career, or your business is not providing you with the money, the freedom, and the lifestyle, you had hoped it would by this point in your life, my advice to you is to try something else.  I don’t mean to suggest that you abandon your confidence.  I simply suggest that you set it aside and give it a break for a little while so that you can absorb some new information and perhaps toss out some old stuff that is no longer working in your best interest.

     The truth is that the skill and confidence levels that got you to where you are now will not serve you as well at the next level.  Every level of personal development and prosperity require new types of thinking and new mindsets.  Each level has different rules and protocols to master.  If you have stalled, it is because you are trying to apply low-level thinking to a higher level and it will never work.

     In financial terms, the abilities it takes to earn an income of around $50,000 are woefully insufficient to earn over $100,000.  The abilities needed to earn $100,000 will not take you to $250,000 and so on.  At every level, the rules change.  The thinking has got to evolve.  The knowledge required is deeper and more nuanced.  To reach the next level, we need to embrace our humility and find out what the rules are for the next level and learn them and then implement them.  It is the only way to grow continually, and that is how we are designed.  When we stop growing, we start dying.

 Art Merrill is an entrepreneur and business owner who has spent forty plus years reading and digesting self-help and personal finance books. He lives just outside of Baton Rouge, Louisiana and has a wonderful wife, three amazing kids and a large extended 'tribe' that keeps both his house and his heart full at all times. He writes to share his experiences and knowledge with others and endeavors to help as many folks as he can because he wants others to enjoy the quality of life that he enjoys as life is too short for anything less.


Saturday, August 4, 2018

How to Encourage Reluctant Readers to Read More and Enjoy It

"I don't like to read." "Reading is boring." Reading is old school." "Reading takes too much time." "I'd rather watch the movie." I'm sure many of us have heard either these lines or something similar when attempting to encourage a reluctant reader to read. Oftentimes we will hear this from children; however, there is a large number of adults who express the same sentiments. This could be problematic for us as a country because reading is the foundation for learning. As self-service automation becomes more and more a part of our daily lives, the more critical the ability to read and process information quickly becomes. The only way to build our reading and comprehension skills is through the practice of reading and for our reluctant or non-readers, they are not getting this practice.

A study conducted by the Pew Research Center in March of 2018 titled Who Doesn't Read Books in America found that about a quarter of American adults (24%) say they haven't read a book in whole or in part in the past year, whether in print, electronic or audio form. I'm sure we can safely make the leap that those who say they haven't read a book in the past year are those who do not find reading to be their activity of choice.

So, how do convince reluctant or non-readers that it really is in their best interest to read more? How do we help this segment of the population understand how critical reading is to everything we do today? How do we encourage those who would rather watch paint dry than reading, pick up a book and read it?

The good news is, everyone has at least one interest and is likely to have several. There is no topic that has not been written about either in a book or article form. In fact, there has not been a better time in our history in terms of accessing information. It is literally at our fingertips. For example, I love aviation and the thought of becoming a pilot and while I have not obtained my pilot's license yet, I continuously read books, blogs, and articles that I would read if I were an actual pilot. Aviation and piloting an aircraft interests me, so reading about it is not boring or arduous. I share this story to say that the first step is to get the reluctant reader to choose reading material about a subject that he/she is passionate about. Allow the reluctant reader to self-choose and not be forced, assigned or mandated to read something that he/she is not interested in. Internet search engines have done wonders for being able to read about any topic under the sun. Believe it or not, our mindsets have a lot to do with how we view reading. Why not make reading fun? Enjoyable?

Secondly, we must prioritize our time to include some time for reading each day. Reluctant readers can start with maybe ten minutes a day and work their way up to thirty and then sixty. The same way avid television watchers can sit and watch television for hours at a time, avid readers read many books for hours at a time. If you are an avid television watcher, would it be possible to trade one of the T.V. hours for reading about something you are passionate about or would like to know more about? Think about the long-term benefits of learning something new or increasing your vocabulary or bolstering your comprehension skills. Reading feeds into lifelong learning.

This is for the teachers and parents who may be reading this; Never assign reading as a punishment. By assigning reading as a punishment, we are sending the wrong message and signal. We do not want anyone to associate something negative (punishment is negative) with something we would like to see more of, as in this case, reading.

Once the reluctant reader has begun to see reading as something that is enjoyable, he/she should use down times such as waiting for appointments, relaxation after work, etc., on airplanes, trains, and buses as opportunities to get some reading in. Like anything else, reading can and must become a positive habit.

One final step for the reluctant or non-reader to do is to share what he/she has read either in conversation or instruction. It is said that the best way to learn something is to teach it, and can you imagine how proud a reluctant reader would be of him/herself after having taught someone else about a subject that he/she read about? Just as we get excited and tell others about how great a movie is, we must also get excited and tell others how great a book or article is. We must generate the same type of excitement that we do for movies, concerts athletic events and other entertainment about books.

In conclusion, I quote the What We Do and Why section from the Reading Is Fundamental website ( to help us better understand why this article matters:

There is a significant and cyclical literacy crisis facing America today and it begins with our children. Twenty-five million children in the U.S. cannot read proficiently.* RIF believes that together we can make a real difference and set our children on a path of growth and opportunity.

While 76% is a good number, I believe we can do even better. 76% is mediocre and mediocrity ought not to have its place in the United States of America. It is up to us who are in the 76% to encourage the 24%. We must all be lifelong learners and that begins by being lifelong readers.
Join me live each Saturday from 6 -9 a.m. Eastern time as I interview authors from around the world on my book talk radio show The Reading Circle with Marc Medley. The show can be heard by tuning in on and on FM radio 88.7 in the New York metropolitan area.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Help Us To Connect The Dots And See

A few weeks ago I came across A Great Work by Brian Courtney Wilson and the lyrics immediately caught my attention. The vocals and music are masterfully performed but it's the lyrics, particularly those that I am going to explode in this post that struck a chord (no pun intended) with me. I write this post 150 miles from where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife Coretta are entombed giving this post that much more significance for me. In fact, yesterday, July 26th, my daughter and me shared some bonding time as we took that 150 mile ride to Atlanta to visit the World of Coca-Cola, the Center for Civil and Human Rights Museum and the King Historic District. As I toured these locations, the words from Mr. Wilson's song kept playing over and over again in my mind and spirit. So I decided to provide my interpretation of a portion of the song that in my mind powerfully speaks to how our outlook and perspective ought to drive our behavior and aspirations. I'll place my interpretation in italics in parentheses under the bolded lyric lines.

So what should be considered as we proceed
(We must always be thinking, reflecting, planning and acting.)

Is that this work did not begin with you
(It's not about us.  We are not all of that and a bag of chips and the opportunities that we take for granted were not always here. Things were not always this way.)

Our mothers' mothers and fathers' fathers planted seeds when we were but the faint notion of a dream in their mind they hope for a harvest a legacy, a great work
(Our ancestors had faith that one day even when they knew it would not be them, that generations would come from them that would live free, produce, contribute and be recognized for their contributions. They knew within their spirits that one day offspring somewhere on future branches of their family trees would have opportunities that only God knew was coming. They knew that one day that future children spawned from them would indeed be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.)

So may your next step forward
(We must keep moving forward and not go backwards. Let's cut out all of this nonsense such as sagging pants; underachieving; settling for mediocrity or less; calling each other derogatory names and terms; acting as if we are crazy/stupid; Get out there and VOTE; etc. etc. etc.) 

Help us to connect the dots and see
(We have got to connect our history with our present and our future. We have got to understand the shoulders we stand on and the ancestors who have fought and died in order for us to be where we are today. We have got to connect the dots and see the connection between us and the people who gave their lives in order for us to have the opportunities that we are experiencing in this present time. We have got to connect the dots and see that we are from greatness and we are great.)

This picture of greatness
(We must visualize and then bring the vision to reality)

In fact I hear God say, that you are his workmanship, His masterpiece, created for such a time as this, for great works, a great, great, great work
(We must see ourselves as that cliche goes "God made me and God don't make no junk!" We must understand that we are on the face of the earth for this period of time to make the world a better place. We are here to make life better for others, our children and our children's children.We were created for whatever is taking place at this very moment. We are here because of all of the others who have gone before us. There is no reason for us not to be great.)

So go be great
(We have no excuses. Get out there and be nothing less than great.)

Don't get discouraged
(It's going to be frustrating, tiring, disappointing, hurtful and hard, but don't you dare give up.)

Go be great
(In the words of Nike, "Just Do It!)

Don't you get weary
(Even though you are going to be challenged, keep on going.)

Go be great
(Cannot repeat this enough)

Keep marching for justice
(Don't settle. In the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "The time is always right to do what is right.")

Keep pressing toward the mark
(Keep moving forward toward lofty goals. Keep your eyes on the prize and don't get distracted by foolishness.)

In this wonderful world
(No matter how bad or crazy it may seem, there is still hope. As long as there is life, there is hope. When all is said and done, we are truly blessed and must always be grateful for what we have not complaining about what we don't have. The world is wonderful place and there is no better time to be alive.)

I am inspired by A Great Work each time I hear it. I listen to these words repeatedly and they hit me as if I were hearing them for the first time each time I listen to the song. It is my hope that my interpretation will spark some thinking, reflection, debate, and ultimately action. It is my hope that we will all strive for greatness and stop settling for mediocrity or just any old thing done in any old kind of way.

Join me live each Saturday from 6-9 a.m. ET as I webstream around the world on and broadcast locally on FM radio in the New York/New Jersey Metropolitan area on WP88.7 FM. I also invite you to follow me on Twitter @readingcircle01, thinkcritical01 and on Instagram @readingcircle01.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Are We Teaching Our Children The Difference Between Earning and Entitlement?

EARN: to receive as return for effort and especially for work done or services rendered

ENTITLE: to give a right to

Almost daily I witness children who seem to not know the difference between the two definitions which opens this post. I see behavior exhibited by children in schools, grocery stores, shopping malls, parks, churches, and just about anywhere else that you will find parents or caregivers with children that lead me to believe that either the children were never taught the difference or they didn't grasp the lesson. I see children throwing temper tantrums while well-meaning adults feebly attempt to explain why they are saying no or why the child is not going to get his/her way, only to acquiesce and ultimately give the child what he/she was throwing the tantrum about.  It baffles me that more parents do not realize that they are perpetuating the very behavior that they do not want every time they give in and allow the child to get what he/she wants as a result of the tantrum or inappropriate behavior. As parents, we send the wrong message to the child leading him/her to believe that the world owes them something and all they have to do to get it is to holler or cry the loudest; pout; roll on the floor; kick and scream; persistently whine and the list can go on. We reinforce this behavior every time we give in and not allow our "No" to remain "No."

There are two key words underlined and bolded in the definitions above that are the key to this post. Children must learn that they must earn whatever it is that they want in life and that for the most part, no one is going to just give them whatever they want just because they want it.  It is downright frustrating to watch this child-parent exchange and have to wonder who the parent is. We are setting our children up to fail in a society that is not going to give them what they want just because they holler, kick, curse and scream. Salaries are earned. Promotions are earned. Degrees are earned. Licenses are earned and so forth and so on. I hope you get the picture. Nothing is given and yet those with the sense of entitlement believe that it ought to be. They believe and have been taught to believe (by our response) that no effort on their part needs to happen and they are to still receive whatever it is that they are looking to receive. No effort on their part whatsoever. Just like that child in the grocery store at the check out line, it's "Give me, give me, give me."

Parents, our "No" must mean "No" and our children need to understand that our "No" means "No" and learn to cut the drama. If we continue down this path, it will not bode well for society as we will have a spoiled generation (if we don't already have one) of people who believe the world owes them something when in reality it does not. The blank writing tablet depicted in the photo with the heading above it which reads "Here is a comprehensive of everything you're entitled to and what the world owes you," says it best.  We must teach our children (and some adults) this or we are all going to suffer in the end. 

Would love to hear your thoughts or experiences with this in the comment section and I invite you to join me live each Saturday from 6 - 9 a.m. Eastern time as I webstream around the world on and broadcast locally in the metropolitan area on FM radio WP88.7 FM. I also invite you to follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and/or @readingcircle01.